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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hardwick Lookin' Good!

Source: San Diego Tribune

Center Nick Hardwick played last night for the first time since tearing ligaments in his ankle in the season opener and having surgery a little more than a week later.

“It felt great,” Hardwick said after playing three quarters of the Chargers’ 42-17 win over Tennessee. “It felt great just to make it through.”

Hardwick, who the Chargers wisely kept on the roster despite what they knew would be a long rehabilitation, has kept himself involved in the game plan. But his actually being in the lineup allowed him to return to his role as pregame clown and in-game motivator.

Hardwick said he was not concerned at all going into the game and felt good before and after.

“It was kinda weird, because when I came back from my foot (last year), I had it in my head a little bit,” he said. “But this year, I didn’t have it in my head at all. I had the practice Wednesday where I felt 100 percent. It felt, like, normal. So I felt great coming in knowing I had no concern. I wasn’t walking around the hotel checking it out or anything like that. I just knew I was good.”

LT passes again

Maybe the only question head coach Norv Turner has been asked more over the past year was why his team repeatedly started slow and finished fast.

Why he hasn’t used the halfback pass more has been a close second.

For the first time in 52 games, LaDainian Tomlinson attempted a pass, taking a pitch on a play from the three-yard line and lofting a too-long ball to Antonio Gates in the back of the end zone.

“It took so long (to develop),” said Tomlinson, whose seven career touchdown passes are second-most in NFL history by a running back. “I didn’t want to take the chance of it being intercepted, I threw it long.”

Tomlinson, who dropped to 8-for-12 on his career and had his passer rating fall to 146.9, last attempted a pass in the 2007 season opener — a 17-yard touchdown pass to Gates.

After a Titans penalty moved the Chargers to the 1, Tomlinson scored the first of his two touchdowns.

Runyan gets reps

Jon Runyan got some much-needed work at right tackle, his first extended action since signing with the Chargers last month.

“Seeing as it’s been 11 months since I played,” Runyan said with a laugh.

Brandyn Dombrowski has started five games in place of Jeromey Clary, who was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Runyan worked a series in the first and third quarters before permanently coming in when Turner made a mass substitution in the fourth quarter, moving Dombrowski to left tackle, putting in Dennis Norman at center and Tyronne Green at left guard.

Chargers patsy

Vince Young has received kudos for his play in the second half of this season. But he struggled again against the Chargers.

Young was 8-for-21 for 89 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions last night and now has a 43.9 passer rating in four career games against the Chargers.

Still piling on

Vincent Jackson and Gates each set career highs in receiving yards.

Jackson led the Chargers with five receptions for 70 yards to up his season total to 68 catches for 1,167 yards, bettering his 2008 season total of 1,098.

Gates caught three passes for 74 yards to get to 1,145 (on 78 receptions) and better his 2005 mark of 1,101 yards.

Big Mac’s rough night

Left tackle Marcus McNeill got beat for a sack, had a holding penalty that cost the Chargers a 52-yard touchdown pass and was flagged for a false start and illegal formation.

“Sometimes you can be your own worst enemy,” said McNeill, who has been playing at a high level.

Nuts ’n’ Bolts

•Shaun Phillips took over the NFL lead and extended his team record by jarring the ball from Young in the second quarter. Phillips’ seventh forced fumble this season and recovery by Stephen Cooper gave the Chargers the ball at their 48 in the second quarter, and they went up 21-3 seven plays later.

•Phillips was in and out of the game for three quarters with a hip injury. Fullback Jacob Hester and defensive back Steve Gregory suffered stingers.

•The Chargers have outscored opponents 66-16 in the first quarter during their 10-game winning streak and 161-63 in the first half.

•In his final game of this decade, Tomlinson set an NFL record for rushing touchdowns in a decade. His 1-yard run in the first quarter was his 137th. Tomlinson scored on another 1-yard run in the third quarter.

•Defensive tackle Antonio Garay was active for the first time since being signed Dec. 9 and played on special teams. He became the 61st player to appear in a game for the Chargers this season. That’s the most since they used 62 in 2004.