NASHVILLE - The San Diego Chargers earned the first-round bye they wanted, and Philip Rivers remained perfect in December.
Rivers threw two touchdowns passes, LaDainian Tomlinson ran for two scores and the Chargers beat the Titans last night, 42-17, to grab the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The AFC West champs streaked to their 10th straight win and tied the 1970-74 Miami Dolphins for most consecutive wins in a month with their 18th in December dating to 2006. The Dolphins won 18 in a row in November.
Darren Sproles caught a TD pass and ran for two more scores to help San Diego (12-3) squash the Titans' dreams of becoming the NFL's first team to start 0-6 and rebound to make the playoffs. Tennessee (7-8) had hoped to top what the 1994 Chargers did in reaching the postseason after an 0-4 start.
Chris Johnson's quest to become only the sixth NFL player to run for 2,000 yards in a season remains alive as the only goal left for Tennessee. He ran for a TD and 142 yards to put him at 1,872 with the season finale at Seattle left. He also notched his 10th straight 100-yard rushing game, putting him behind only Barry Sanders (14) and Marcus Allen (11).
Titans coach Jeff Fisher has yet to beat San Diego, losing his sixth of seven straight losses to the Chargers in the series.
The Titans, who had two starters in linebackers Keith Bulluck and David Thornton watching from the sideline because of injuries, simply disintegrated. Vince Young ran for a TD, but San Diego turned his three turnovers into 21 points. Tennessee also matched a season high with nine penalties.
Rivers, an Alabama native, had his own cheering section with approximately 70 tickets for family and friends. He gave them plenty to celebrate.
He threw for 264 yards and topped 4,000 yards passing for a second straight season. He directed the Chargers to TDs on six out of seven drives. The exception? His kneel-down to end the first half as the NFL's third-rated passer picked apart a Tennessee defense ranked next to last in the NFL in yards allowed.
Tomlinson scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, the first giving San Diego a 7-3 lead it never lost. That also was his 137th rushing TD of the decade, topping the 136 TDs Emmitt Smith had in the 1990s for most in a decade in the NFL. Tomlinson's second put him at 138.
Three Titans were flagged for neutral-zone infractions on San Diego's first TD drive of the game, and Tennessee drew two 15-yarders at the end of the same play for another Chargers' TD drive. Defensive end William Hayes pushed Rivers too late, then officials flagged the Titans' sideline for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Young had been nearly perfect at home since coming off the bench with only four turnovers in going 7-1 as a starter. Then he turned it over on successive drives in the second quarter, first as Brandon Siler picked off a pass at the Tennessee 19. On the next, he fumbled as he scrambled at midfield. *