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Chargers defense rules again in 40-7 romp

SAN DIEGO (Sept. 17, 2006) -- If Shawne Merriman has his way, the rest of the NFL will begin to recognize the San Diego Chargers as one of the league's dominating defenses.

Merriman and Co. turned in another suffocating performance and came within 3:09 of back-to-back shutouts for the first time in team history.

The defensive results, along with a pair of LaDainian Tomlinson touchdown runs, produced a 40-7 rout of the Tennessee Titans.

"We want to be looked at as being the best," said Merriman, nicknamed "Lights Out" for his hard hits. "If people don't start recognizing us, we'll just have to keep at it until they do."

Merriman, who had three of San Diego's nine sacks in a 27-0 victory at Oakland on Sept. 11, was at it again against Tennessee (0-2). The linebacker intercepted a pass, batted away two others and San Diego (2-0) held the Titans to 218 total yards and 14 first downs -- many of them late in the game.

"I'm happy I don't have to play against them," said Tomlinson, San Diego's Pro Bowl back who scored on runs of 4 and 8 yards and finished with 71 yards on 19 carries.

Tennessee ruined San Diego's shutout bid when No. 1 draft pick Vince Young threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Drew Bennett late in the fourth quarter.

The Titans advanced into Chargers territory only twice. The first time wasn't until late in the third quarter, when they got to the 45 before Quentin Jammer's interception ended the drive.

"Obviously, I'm not pleased that we have a long way to go and it will be tough," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said.

Merriman keyed a defense that kept constant pressure on Kerry Collins and Young, even though there were no sacks.

"We expect to play this way," Jammer said. "We play with the attitude that we will be a dominating defense. It's all about attitude."

Tomlinson's touchdowns came in the first half and Nate Kaeding kicked four field goals as San Diego began the season 2-0 for the first time since 2003.

The Chargers offense, which was conservative in the opener, gained 476 yards -- and Philip Rivers was 25-for-35 for 235 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson in the fourth quarter. Rivers, making only his second start, attempted only 11 passes against Oakland.

"We need a little more balance," Tomlinson said. "I think you are beginning to see the beginning of a balanced offense."

Tomlinson's backup, Michael Turner, ran for 138 yards on 13 carries, including a 75-yard run late in the game.

The Titans gained only 15 yards on 19 plays in the first half. Tennessee's only first down of the half came with less than six minutes left in the second quarter on a personal-foul penalty against defensive end Luis Castillo, who hit Young late.

"I'm not going to take anything away from their defense," Young said. "But they didn't do anything that we haven't practiced."

Tennessee's initial first down on its own came early in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass to Bennett from Collins, who was 6-for-19 for 57 yards with two interceptions.

"There's nothing wrong with the system," Collins said. "What's wrong is when your quarterback played like (I) did today."

Tomlinson scored on a 4-yard run early in the second quarter to put San Diego ahead 10-0 after Kaeding kicked a 28-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Tomlinson added his 8-yard run for a 17-0 lead only four minutes later. Kaeding added a 31-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the first half for a 20-0 lead.

Kaeding's other field goals were from 35 and 44 yards.

Tomlinson tied Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth atop the Chargers' all-time list with 83 career touchdowns. Tomlinson also went over the 10,000-yard mark from scrimmage with a 5-yard run late in the second quarter.

Young, who made his debut by playing one series last week against the New York Jets, played five series this time and completed 7 of 17 passes for 106 yards. He also ran for 24 yards on six carries and fumbled once.


Merriman, who last year as a rookie came out on most passing downs, recorded his first interception. ... Fisher said he plans to continue starting Collins and having Young spell the veteran. ... Kaeding tied his career high in field goals, set at Indianapolis on Dec. 18, 2005. ... Turner, who rushed for a career high against the Titans, has 175 yards rushing in two games compared to 202 for Tomlinson.

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