Tomlinson couldn't take the losing any longer.
"He was bound and determined not to let us lose," quarterback Drew Brees said. "He wanted the ball."
Earlier this week, the sensational third-year back said half-jokingly that he was willing to do anything -- even break the rules -- just to get the Chargers a victory.
"No, I don't think I did," he said with a smile when asked if he had done anything illegal. "But I was willing to, I'll tell you that. For some reason, I felt strongly that we were going to get a win. I just had a feeling we were going to put it together."
Tomlinson broke off a 70-yard TD run on his first carry after halftime and picked up 143 yards in the second half as the Chargers snapped a nine-game losing streak dating to last season.
But they had to survive Holcomb's heroics to do it.
Holcomb replaced an ineffective Tim Couch late in the third quarter and threw two TD passes -- the second to tight end Darnell Sanders with 11:40 left -- as the Browns (3-4) trimmed a 17-point deficit to 23-20.
"I was scared," Tomlinson said. "I really was."
But he felt a little better after helping San Diego run nearly eight minutes off the clock by running for 48 tough yards to set up Christie's field goal with 3:44 remaining.
The Chargers should have put the game away on that drive, but with first-and-goal at the 8, San Diego inexplicably called two running plays for fullback Lorenzo Neal and Brees was sacked for a 13-yard loss on third down.
"I made a bad call," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "If I had to do it all over again, I would have run the ball."
Down by six, Holcomb got the Browns to midfield but threw three consecutive incompletions and gave the ball back to the Chargers, who didn't have to punt until there were just 25 seconds left.
Holcomb finished 11-of-19 for 90 yards and two TDs in relief of Couch, who went 13-of-24 for 102 yards and two interceptions.
"This was disturbing," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "We played about as inconsistently and poorly as you can possibly play in several different areas. It's frustrating."
Couch declined to speak with reporters following the game and had X-rays taken on his left ankle, which were negative.
He wasn't the only Browns player hurting. Left tackle Barry Stokes left the stadium on crutches after reinjuring his right ankle. Running back William Green suffered an unspecified shoulder injury and was used sparingly in the second half.
Green, who was coming off consecutive 100-yard games, had 14 carries for 65 yards.
Tomlinson's TD burst was a thing of beauty.
Running left, he froze cornerback Anthony Henry with a stutter step, broke attempted tackles by Andra Davis and Robert Griffith and outraced the Browns to put the Chargers ahead 20-6 just 2:33 into the third quarter.
"I saw the cornerback coming in, and when I cut up the field, it was just about breaking tackles," he said. "Then, it was off to the races. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw there was nobody close to me."
As far as the Chargers are concerned, there is never anyone close to him.
"He is a very special player and a very special person," Schottenheimer said. "He has as big a heart as anyone around. With guys like that, you really don't need much coaching."
LaDainian Tomlinson leaves the Browns behind during a 70-yard touchdown run. (AP)
|FG||Steve Christie 44 Yd, 7:18. Drive: 7 plays, 37 yards in 3:39.|
|FG||Steve Christie 50 Yd, 2:57. Drive: 7 plays, 43 yards in 2:31.|
|TD||Kwamie Lassiter, 38 Yd interception return (Steve Christie kick is good), 5:27.|
|FG||Phil Dawson 46 Yd, 0:35. Drive: 12 plays, 39 yards in 4:52.|
|FG||Phil Dawson 42 Yd, 12:44. Drive: 4 plays, 8 yards in 2:02.|
|TD||LaDainian Tomlinson, 70 Yd run (Steve Christie kick is good), 12:27. Drive: 1 play, 70 yards in 0:17.|
|FG||Steve Christie 42 Yd, 2:57. Drive: 4 plays, 8 yards in 1:37.|
|TD||Dennis Northcutt, 6 Yd pass from Kelly Holcomb (Phil Dawson kick is good), 14:52. Drive: 7 plays, 74 yards in 3:05.|
|TD||Darnell Sanders, 1 Yd pass from Kelly Holcomb (Phil Dawson kick is good), 11:40. Drive: 8 plays, 35 yards in 3:04.|
|FG||Steve Christie 32 Yd, 3:44. Drive: 13 plays, 58 yards in 7:56.|
|Complete Player Stats|