Jim Brown was waiting for him.
“Yeah, a perfect day,” Tomlinson said as he headed toward the Chargers’ team bus. “I’ve thought a long time about this day. If I was going to pass Jim, I wanted to do it here in Cleveland, and I wanted to talk to him in the locker room after the game.”
Tomlinson stiff-armed Cleveland’s Hall of Famer out of eighth place on the career rushing list and scored his 150th career TD on a 4-yard run as the Chargers won their seventh straight and 15th in a row in December, beating the Browns 30-23 on Sunday.
In moving past Brown, Tomlinson fulfilled a childhood dream that began with games of touch football in Texas.
“As a kid playing football in the yard, I looked up to all the great running backs,” Tomlinson said. “But there were a lot of days I was Jim Brown out there on the football field. To do it here in Cleveland is extra special. I can’t even tell you what it means because it seems like it was supposed to happen here in Cleveland.”
After Tomlinson passed Brown on an 11-yard burst up the middle in the fourth quarter, San Diego’s running back pointed toward the 73-year-old who was sitting in a luxury suite. He patted his heart and offered a salute.
“He’s a class guy,” Brown said. “We love each other. I came back here because I wanted to show my respect. My position in history doesn’t matter to me, but the respect that I get and the respect I give is highly important. I could never do what a Barry Sanders or a Walter Payton or a Hugh McElhenny could do. They were totally different than me. I would break my legs trying to move like Barry Sanders.”
Antonio Gates(notes) set a career high with 167 receiving yards for the Chargers (9-3), who dragged their cleats early and only led 13-7 at halftime. But quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) led San Diego on touchdown drives of 85 and 83 yards in just over nine minutes in the third quarter to open a 27-7 lead.
Tomlinson’s TD with 5:58 left in the third put the Chargers up by 20, and placed the running back in elite company among NFL greats.
Tomlinson reached 150 TDs faster than any player in league history, hitting the milestone in his 137th game. Emmitt Smith needed 160 games to reach 150 and Jerry Rice(notes) didn’t score his 150th until his 167th.
“I’ve always really enjoyed scoring touchdowns more than anything,” Tomlinson said. “Part of the reason is that’s how you win the game—scoring touchdowns. I’ve always said that if I’m scoring touchdowns, then I think we’re winning. So that’s pretty special.”
So, which was better, No. 150 or surpassing Brown?
“Passing Jim Brown. He transcended generations,” Tomlinson said. “I can remember my father talking about Jim Brown as a kid. He loved him. Everybody loved Jim Brown and rightfully so. Even today when you talk about the great running backs, the majority of people will say Jim Brown is the best ever.”
Tomlinson finished with 64 yards on 20 carries and has 12,321 yards. Tony Dorsett (12,739) is seventh all-time.
Rivers threw two TD passes—both on short routes to running backs—as the Chargers continued their surge following a 2-3 start.
With Dallas and Cincinnati looming on the schedule, San Diego couldn’t afford to overlook the Browns (1-11), who have lost seven straight amid mounting injuries.
At halftime, San Diego seemed to be in trouble.
At the end of the third quarter, the Chargers had little concern.
“It got a little close,” Rivers said. “Close enough to where you weren’t too comfortable.”
San Diego thoroughly dominated the Browns in the third, outgaining Cleveland 208-10—164-0 in passing yards—while holding the ball for 12:06.
Rivers was 7 for 8 in the quarter with four completions going to Gates for 114 yards. The highlight of San Diego’s aerial assault came when Gates, the former Kent State basketball star, boxed out Abram Elam(notes) and Hank Poteat(notes) for a 56-yard reception.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Tomlinson said. “He’s just so dominant, you can’t cover him one on one. He looks like when he played basketball. When the ball is in the air, his mindset is, ‘It’s mine.”’
Brady Quinn(notes) threw three TD passes for the Browns, who have lost a franchise-record 10 straight home games and must get ready to play an angry Pittsburgh squad on Thursday. The Steelers lost at home to Oakland 27-24 on Sunday.
“That was the No. 1 play of the day, because that sealed the victory,” Tomlinson said.
And his perfect day.
NOTES: Nate Kaeding(notes) kicked field goals of 32, 42 and 22 yards for the Chargers. … Browns Stadium was less than half full at kickoff and any late arrivals missed the Browns’ first TD, Quinn’s 11-yard pass to Mohamed Massaquoi(notes). Quinn went 6 for 6 for 61 yards on the scoring drive, Cleveland’s first for a TD on an opening possession since Nov. 11, 2007—a span of 35 games. … Browns DT C.J. Mosley(notes) injured his right leg in the first half. He left the stadium on crutches.