While giving a wildfire-ravaged region something to cheer about, the 35-10 rout also showed that the Chargers don't always have to be dynamic on both sides of the ball to win.
"The defense won the game, pretty much," said Tomlinson, who in San Diego's previous game rushed for 198 yards and four touchdowns. "Anytime you have a game like that, you enjoy it. It was a total team effort."
While the stat sheet might have been out of whack, the Chargers (4-3) thrived on big plays in winning their third straight game. Antonio Cromartie recovered a botched punt snap in the end zone for a touchdown and also scored on a 70-yard interception return, the first of two pickoffs for the nickel back.
Three of Rivers' seven completions went for touchdowns, with those three plays accounting for 94 of his 130 yards. All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates had scoring catches of 49 and 31 yards, and newcomer Chris Chambers caught a 14-yarder.
One other thing stood out; After racing to a 35-3 halftime lead, the Chargers didn't score in the second half.
"It was funny. We looked up halfway through the second quarter and we had run 11 plays on offense," Rivers said Monday. "So it was just one of those games. Again, the second half, you want to keep the pedal down, but you don't want to do anything silly to give it away. You're not going to lose the game unless you throw an interception for a touchdown, fumble for a touchdown."
Both Rivers and coach Norv Turner mentioned missed opportunities in the second half. Among them were the chance to break some long runs, and some overthrows by Rivers, including a pass intended for Chambers that could have been a 65-yard TD had they connected.
"Again, if we'd executed them, someone might be asking about running the score up," Turner said. "So I'm not disappointed about what we did, I'm excited about what we did. I know our guys are going to look at the tape in all three phases and say, 'Hey, we can play a lot better than this.' "
During their winning streak, the Chargers are plus-10 in turnover margin, with their 11 takeaways leading to 45 points, while their lone turnover cost them seven points. During their stunning three-game losing streak, when they were defeated by New England, Green Bay and Kansas City, the Chargers committed eight giveaways that led to 37 points for the opponents while getting four takeaways that led to only three points.
Cromartie is one of several young players who have impressed Turner with their improvement, and his performance Sunday was huge.
"Those are game-changing plays," Turner said. "It's really what we've done over the last month. We're creating turnovers and we're protecting the ball. If you do those things and you have the talent we have and the playmakers we have, then you're going to be in good shape."
Up next is a trip to play Minnesota (2-5), which is last in the NFC North. Then it's back home to play Indianapolis, which faces New England on Sunday in a showdown of the league's only unbeaten teams.
"The common theme here is the turnovers," said Tomlinson, the reigning NFL MVP. "If we take care of the ball, and our defense forces turnovers like we've been doing the last three games, no matter who we're playing, we're going to be in the game. So, say we play Indianapolis later on this year or have to play at New England again, if we don't turn the football over and they don't turn the football over, and it's just kind of an equal game, then I like our chances."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press