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Redskins Can't Let 'L.T.' Get Rolling

Since being ripped apart by Tiki Barber and his career-high 206 yards on Week 8, the Redskins' run defense has come up with three straight solid games versus Philadelphia (45 rushing yards), Tampa Bay (61) and Oakland (50).

Now, though, comes what amounts to the supreme challenge: trying to find a way to control San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, perhaps the best player in the NFL.

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The 5-10, 221-pound Tomlinson rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first four seasons in the league. In 2005, he's having another superlative season, with 211 carries, 902 yards and 14 TDs through 10 games.

Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave'a was a teammate of Tomlinson's in 2003. Salave'a knows he and his teammates will have to come up with an outstanding effort.

"He's a complete back," Salave'a said of Tomlinson. "LaDainian's always put up big numbers. But now that San Diego's getting more attention as a team, he's really in the spotlight. When he's at his best, he's like the 'Superman' of running backs. He can run, catch, whatever you need."

Added safety Ryan Clark, speaking of Tomlinson: "What makes him special is his ability to hit the home run. He's the type of guy who, if you miss a tackle on him, he can break it for 60 or 70 yards and nobody on the defense can catch him. That's going to be the biggest thing for us, trying to keep him bottled up. The games where we've been hurt, we've missed tackles and given up big plays, so we can't do that this week."

A two-time Pro Bowler, Tomlinson, the Chargers' first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2001 NFL draft out of Texas Christian, actually began his NFL career against the Redskins.

In the 2001 opener, Tomlinson took the ball 36 times and produced 113 yards and two scores as San Diego routed Washington 30-3 in Qualcomm Stadium. That was Marty Schottenheimer's first game as the Redskins' head coach.

Really, it was an embarrassing loss for the Redskins. But the game was moved to the margins of though by events that would transpire two days later, on Sept. 11, 2001.

This year, Schottenheimer, in his fourth season in San Diego, has the Chargers at 6-4 behind the offensive fireworks of Tomlinson, quarterback Drew Brees, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receiver Keenan McCardell.

"They have a lot of weapons," said Redskins safety Sean Taylor. "It's an explosive offense, and we'll have our work cut out for us. Guys who are assigned to stopping the run really have to step up and do the job for us. Against LaDainian, it's all about doing your assignments."

Coming off a solid, six-tackle game against Randy Moss and the Raiders, Taylor is expected to see plenty of time against Gates on Sunday. He's well aware of the skills Gates brings.

"He's a big body, a lot like Tony Gonzalez, and he uses his body well," said Taylor. "But they have a lot of other weapons. The quarterback, Drew Brees, is really efficient in running the offense. Then, they have Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell. It's an explosive offense. We need a big win against a team like that."

A 12th-round pick of the Redskins all the way back in 1991, McCardell sat out that season with a knee injury but earned a ring after Joe Gibbs' team routed Buffalo 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI. McCardell went on to establish himself as a top-flight NFL wide receiver in Jacksonville between 1996 and 2001 as he teamed with Mark Brunell for seasons of 85, 85, 64, 78, 94 and 93 catches.

Brees is coming off the best game of his five-game NFL career. He completed 28-of-33 passes for 339 yards and four TDs in last week's 48-10 romp over visiting Buffalo.

On Sunday, the Redskins will seek to get back in the playoff hunt while preventing the Chargers from becoming the 10th straight AFC team to defeat them. Although San Diego brings offensive weapons in all shapes and sizes, the real key for the Redskins figures to be how they do versus Tomlinson.

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