LaDainian Tomlinson wanted to eliminate all the risks of trying a field goal in overtime.
So he took the ball, cut to his left and outran everyone on a 16-yard touchdown run with 7 1/2 minutes left in the extra period, finishing off the Chargers' rally from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit yesterday to beat host Tennessee, 23-17.
"Anything can happen with a field goal," said Tomlinson (146 yards, 26 carries).
The Chargers (8-5) won their third straight and seventh in nine games.
"To come in here and get a win is really, really big for our guys," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "And then the way we did it, I think the key for our football team today was we fought hard."
The Chargers won a physical game in which linebacker Shawne Merriman got two sacks early in the first half, then spent the rest of the day sidelined by an injured left knee. Tight end Antonio Gates hurt his back and returned to catch the game-tying touchdown.
Philip Rivers (21-for-40, 228 yards), intercepted twice, hurt his left knee in the first half and returned to finish the game wearing a brace.
"He went out there and gave us everything he had," Merriman said. "He wasn't 100 percent. You could see it. He was limping around all the time, still went out and fought for us."
Rivers, the Alabama native with lots of family and friends in the stands, had 37 yards passing through three quarters. He led the rally by throwing two TD passes in the final 7:29 - the last with 9 seconds left.
"He kept getting up," said Titans defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who had three of Tennessee's five sacks. "He stayed after it. Especially after the fourth quarter. We knocked him down a couple times. I had him wrapped up once and he was able to get the pass off. He showed a lot of resolve at the end of the game."
Tennessee (7-6) had a chance to run out the clock in a game the Titans desperately needed to stay close to Cleveland and Jacksonville in the chase for the AFC's two wild-card berths. But they gave the ball back to San Diego with 2:24 left in regulation, then went three-and-out in overtime.
The loss wasted a strong performance by the Tennessee defense, which had three interceptions. But the Titans couldn't get close enough to Rivers when it mattered as he tossed a 7-yard TD to Tomlinson with 7:29 left to cap a 92-second drive.
"It was as physical a game as I've been in," Rivers said. "That's the way it goes. I didn't feel like I was running for my life."
In other games:
* COLTS 44, RAVENS 20: At Baltimore, Peyton Manning (13-for-17, 249 yards) threw four touchdown passes, including the 300th of his career, and Indianapolis (11-2) built a 30-point lead in the second quarter in a rout of the Ravens (4-9). The win, combined with Tennessee's loss to San Diego, assured the Colts (11-2) a sixth consecutive trip to the postseason.
* PACKERS 38, RAIDERS 7: At Green Bay, the Packers (11-2) assured an end to their 2-year absence from the postseason with three games left to play after routing Oakland (4-9). Packers cornerback Will Blackmon returned a punt 57 yards for a touchdown and recovered a muffed punt by Raiders returner Tim Dwight in the end zone. Brett Favre (15-for-23, 266 yards) threw for two touchdowns.
* TEXANS 28, BUCCANEERS 14: At Houston, Sage Rosenfels (27-for-36, 209 yards) threw for three touchdowns to lead the Texans (6-7) and has won both games he's started in place of the injured Matt Schaub. Tampa Bay could have secured the NFC South title with a win, but instead saw their four-game winning streak snapped due to miscues and ineffectiveness.
* SEAHAWKS 42, CARDINALS 21: At Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck (22-for-33, 272 yards) threw a season-high four touchdown passes and the Seahawks (9-4) clinched their fourth consecutive NFC West title. Kurt Warner (28-for-46, 337 yards) threw five ionterceptions for Arizona (6-7) and was sacked five times.
* VIKINGS 27, 49ERS 7: At San Francisco, Kevin Williams - the Vikings' 311-pound defensive lineman - returned an interception 18 yards for a touchdown on the game's first play, and Chester Taylor (101 yards, eight carries) had an 84-yard scoring run for Minnesota (7-6). Frank Gore (68 yards, 16 carries) lost two fumbles for San Francisco (3-10).
* BROWNS 24, JETS 18: At East Rutherford, N.J., Derek Anderson (16-for-29, 185 yards) threw two touchdown passes and Joe Jurevicius recovered two late onside kicks as Cleveland (8-5) held off New York (3-10).
* BRONCOS 41, CHIEFS 7: At Denver, Jay Cutler (20-for-27, 244 yards) threw a career-best four touchdown passes, Selvin Young rushed for a career-high 156 yards (17 carries) and Elvis Dumervil had three sacks and forced a fumble that led to a touchdown as the Broncos (6-7) beat Kansas City (4-9).
* JAGUARS 37, PANTHERS 6: At Jacksonville, Fred Taylor (132 yards, 18 carries) ran for an 80-yard touchdown and the Jaguars (9-4) routed Carolina. The Panthers (5-8) lost for the sixth time in seven games.
* BENGALS 19, RAMS 10: At Cincinnati, Rudi Johnson (92 yards, 23 carries) ran for a 1-yard touchdown, Shayne Graham kicked four field goals and the Bengals (5-8) took advantage of third-string quarterback Brock Berlin, who played as Marc Bulger (concussion) and Gus Frerotte (shoulder) sat out for St. Louis (3-10). *