SAN DIEGO -- Running back LaDainian Tomlinson scored four touchdowns as the San Diego Chargers defeated the Oakland Raiders, 28-14, Sunday in front of 67,523 at Qualcomm Stadium to put the Chargers into a tie for first in the AFC West.
After losing three of their first four games, the Chargers are now 3-3 and tied with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders are 2-3 and face the Chiefs next week, and the Chargers have an open date.
"We had a slow start [to the season], but most importantly nobody bailed out of the boat," said Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo.
That slow start had brought out skeptics wondering why the Chargers replaced coach Marty Schottenheimer with Norv Turner despite a 14-2 season in 2006.
Skeptics were few Sunday though as the Chargers scored on their first two drives and a rout, akin to last week's 41-3 defeat of the Denver Broncos, seemed possible.
In the end, it was what Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers called an "efficient" victory, not flashy or dramatic but workmanlike.
Tomlinson gained 198 yards in 24 attempts, scoring on touchdown runs of three yards and 27 yards in the first quarter, 13 yards in the third quarter, and 41 yards in the fourth.
The Raiders were close on only two occasions: in the second quarter when an interception returned for a touchdown cut the lead to 14-7, and then late in the fourth quarter when a 17-play, 60-yard drive was capped by a one-yard pass from quarterback Daunte Culpepper to tight end Zach Miller, slicing the lead to 21-14.
Minutes later, Tomlinson's fourth touchdown -- on his longest run of the afternoon -- killed the Raiders' hope for a comeback.
"That last drive was beautiful," Tomlinson said. "I don't know if you can script it better."
Turner was forgiving of Rivers' interception in the second quarter, which was returned 66 yards by Raiders outside linebacker Thomas Howard for a touchdown.
"He tried to make something happen where there was nothing," Turner said.
The Chargers' defense sacked Culpepper six times (three by linebacker Shawne Merriman) and limited the Raiders to 53 yards rushing. Before Sunday, the Raiders led the NFL in that category.
"They were flying around," Culpepper said of the Chargers' defensive line. "They had a great rush on us."
Culpepper completed 24 of 37 passes for 230 yards; Rivers was 14 for 21 for 156. Antonio Gates caught three Rivers passes for 58 yards.
Chargers defensive back Antonio Cromartie got his first interception of the season. He had dropped two possible interceptions in the Chargers' loss to Green Bay.
"The frustration is over," he said. "I hope they start to come in bunches."
Tomlinson's four touchdowns are a continuation of his career-long domination of the Raiders. In 13 games against them, Tomlinson has scored 16 touchdowns and has had eight of his 40 100-yard games against them.
Just why is open to conjecture.
"I don't know, but I like it," Rivers said.
The Chargers have beaten the Raiders eight times in a row. Raiders first-year Coach Lane Kiffin offered no excuses for the loss. "What happened today is that we came out and played like a really bad football team," he said.
For his first touchdown, Tomlinson did a forward dive into the end zone, landing on his helmet. His wife has been quoted as saying she doesn't like it when he does that, lest he be injured.
"I'm pretty sure LaTorsha's going to say something about that leap," Tomlinson joked. "My response to her is: 'Hey, baby, these are desperate times.' "