LANDOVER, Md. -- Instead of crowing about a victory over his former team, Marty Schottenheimer decided once and for all to proclaim LaDainian Tomlinson the greatest running back ever.
Who could blame him? Tomlinson tied the game with a 32-yard run late in the fourth quarter and won it with a 41-yard scamper on the second play of overtime. He ran for 147 for his 184 yards after halftime Sunday in the San Diego Chargers' 23-17 victory over the Washington Redskins.
"I believe with a certainty, in my opinion, he is the finest running back I have ever seen in professional football," Schottenheimer said.
"And I know people say: 'Well what about Jim Brown? And what about Gale Sayers?' That's all well and good, but I tell you what, in the era that we're in now where you have defensive linemen that weigh 300 pounds and run 4.75, and these mammoth guys that are playing linebacker, I think with a certainty, in my opinion, he is the finest running back that I have ever seen."
Whew! Well, the coach won't get much argument from his players. Tomlinson is reason No. 1 the Chargers (7-4) overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit, as well as three interceptions by quarterback Drew Brees. San Diego won its fourth straight and remained two games behind Denver in the AFC West.
"We found something that was working," Brees said, "and we stuck with it."
Tomlinson became the seventh player to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first five seasons. He accepted Schottenheimer's praise with modesty, but he hinted at better things to come.
"I'm only in my fifth year, and we still have five games to go down the stretch, and the offensive line is just now getting healthy," Tomlinson said. "So I'm looking forward to what we have here in the future."
Schottenheimer also became the second ex-Redskins coach in two weeks to stick it to his former team. Norv Turner was emotional after getting revenge on owner Dan Snyder when the Oakland Raiders won 16-13 last week, but Schottenheimer said he had no particular "anxiousness or nostalgia" because he was in Washington for only a year.
"Whatever emotions he has, he made that second to winning the game for the Chargers," right guard Mike Goff said. "We knew what was at stake. It was good to win one for the coach."
The Redskins (5-6) were distraught, their playoff hopes all but erased after losing a late fourth-quarter lead for the third straight week. The critical play this time was an obvious tackle-from-behind holding penalty on center Casey Rabach that forced kicker John Hall to try a 52-yard field goal -- beyond his range when he was practicing before the game -- with 30 seconds left. The attempt was wide right and a little short, Hall's first miss of the season after a 9-for-9 start.
"I'm just trying to figure out where we go from here," said linebacker LaVar Arrington, speaking slowly with eyes glazed. "This one's got me confused. We're just letting them get away, the same way, over and over again."
Coach Joe Gibbs was equally somber.
"That's about three of the toughest losses I've been through," Gibbs said. "This is going to be a real test for us. We'll see what we're made of here."
The Redskins lost despite winning the turnover battle 3-0. They were tied for last in the league with a minus-13 differential entering the game, but Carlos Rogers, Shawn Springs and Walt Harris got the team's first interceptions by cornerbacks this season. Springs' pick put the ball at San Diego's 31 with 1:04 left, before Rabach's holding penalty.
The Chargers won the toss at the start of overtime. Tight end Antonio Gates, bottled up for most of the game as he played on a sprained foot, caught a 24-yard pass. Tomlinson scored on the next play, with Goff throwing a key block.
"It was a roller-coaster ride," Brees said, "to come on the road and play as inconsistently as we did, but then just to find a way at the end. It wasn't pretty, but we've found ourselves on the other side of these quite a few times in the past."
- San Diego DE DeQuincy Scott left the game with a lower leg injury.
- Redskins DT Joe Salave'a aggravated a foot injury. DT Cornelius Griffin returned after missing three games with a hip injury.
- San Diego LT Roman Oben (foot) missed his third straight game.
- K Nate Kaeding, 14-for-15 coming into the game, missed two of three field goal attempts.
- Due to injuries, Santana Moss started the game as the only active Redskins wideout with more than five catches on the season.
- The Redskins have lost 10 straight to AFC teams.