LaDainian Tomlinson set the NFL record for TDs in a season Sunday, scoring his 29th in a win over the Broncos. After studying Tomlinson's rushing touchdowns, I can give you 28 reasons why.
1. Experience. Tomlinson acts like he's been there before -- because he has. He has 203 rushing touchdowns in the past 12 years -- 95 for the Chargers, 54 for TCU and 54 for Waco University High School.
2. Vision. He sees the hole before you do.
3. Power. L.T. can get low and move multiple defenders, as he did on a 2-yard touchdown run against the Rams.
4. Acceleration. It doesn't take him long to get to full speed, as he demonstrated on an 8-yard run against the Titans in which he burst to the right corner of the end zone and got there before cornerback Reynaldo Hill.
5. Speed. Tomlinson was timed at 4.45 in the 40. "He has two gears," says Bills rookie safety Ko Simpson, who ate Tomlinson's dust on a 51-yard touchdown run. "He'll set you up, then explode on you. That's what he did to me."
6. Change of direction. Tomlinson can start left and cut right, as he did on a 9-yard touchdown run against the Bengals, so defenders have to be careful not to overpursue.
7. Wiggle. With apologies to Shakira, his hips do lie.
8. Hops. L.T. can jump over the line of scrimmage as if he were on a trampoline. He has done it three times this year on the goal line, and he has scored each time.
9. Instinct. He can smell the end zone.
10. A combination of skills. "He has it all," Broncos safety John Lynch says. "If a guy has one thing or the other, you can counteract it. But when they have everything, it makes it real tough to defend."
11. He's vertically challenged. At 5-10, Tomlinson is just the right size to get lost in a crowd. "Being shorter, you can hide behind offensive linemen," he says. "Once they realize where you are, it's too late."
12. Lorenzo Neal. If there is a "hidden" reason for Tomlinson's touchdowns, it's his fullback. Even though Neal has played only about 70 percent of the Chargers' snaps on offense, he has been on the field for all but two of Tomlinson's rushing touchdowns. And he has thrown the lead block on 18. "He's usually the guy who gets the last block and clears the way," Tomlinson says.
13. The power play. This is the Chargers' signature run. The power play is marked by a pulling guard. That player has been right guard Mike Goff on several of Tomlinson's scores. "It has the ability to hit anywhere," Tomlinson says. "You can run it from tackle to tackle. It allows us to get a double-team at the point of attack."
14. The heavy formation. On goal-line plays, the Chargers usually have tackles Shane Olivea and Marcus McNeill line up next to each other, essentially making one of them a tight end. The tight end on the opposite side of the line then becomes a tackle. The heavy formation often is combined with the power play, which gives the Chargers five linemen, including the center, on one side. Try stopping that.
15. Defensive backs can't tackle him. L.T. has broken tackle attempts by defensive backs on several of his touchdown runs, including three against the Bengals.
16. Cam Cameron's play calls. The Chargers' offensive coordinator has kept defenses off-balance and has found ways to get Tomlinson in space and in one-on-one matchups.
17. The sweet spot on the field. Tomlinson has scored many of his touchdowns from between the 10-yard line and the 3. From this area, the Chargers can run their normal formations and be somewhat unpredictable.
18. Going left. Not including the touchdowns he scored jumping over the top, 80 percent of his scoring runs have gone to the left of center.
19. Easy ones. On many of Tomlinson's touchdowns (not including jump-overs), he hasn't been touched by a defender.
20. Preparation. "I don't know him, but I can tell he studies defenses," Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes says. "He knows tendencies, and he knows where the hole will be."
21. The threat of a halfback pass. Tomlinson has thrown two touchdown passes this season, so defensive backs need to consider the possibility of a pass when he rolls out.
22. The opponents. Through Week 12, the Chargers had played six games against defenses in the bottom 10 against the rush (including Oakland twice) and only two games against defenses in the top 10 against the rush.
23. The I-formation. Many of Tomlinson's TD runs have come from the I.
24. An offense that gets in the red zone. Only two teams, the Colts and Cowboys, have converted a higher percentage of third-down opportunities.
25. Backside runs. Defenders can't always key on offensive linemen. On a 2-yard score against the Bills, the line blocked right and L.T. ran left.
26. Tight end Antonio Gates. When Mr. Mismatch splits out in the red zone, he takes at least one run defender with him.
27. Wide receiver blocking. Receivers such as Vincent Jackson can get in a defensive back's way for a second or two -- which is all Tomlinson needs.
28. Determination. Says Tomlinson, "Every time I get the ball down there, I run like it's the last chance I'm going to get to score a touchdown.