Philip Rivers has been throwing passes to Antonio Gates for nine seasons now, so games like Sunday’s are bound to happen.
It wasn’t quite like sandlot ball, but with these two guys, it might as well have been.
Gates had three touchdown catches, including a spectacular, one-handed grab, and the Chargers controlled the tempo to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field to beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-21 on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Gates scored on catches of 8, 8 and 21 yards.
“He doesn’t surprise me, but I will say all three touchdown catches, for the most part, didn’t come up exactly like they were drawn up,” Rivers said. “They’re a little bit backyard. We ended up close to the spots we were trying to do, but just a little bit different based on technique. They were obviously huge plays.”
Gates’ 21-yarder was epic, as the star tight end split two defenders and extended for Rivers’ pass, reaching out with his left hand to gather it in. Flat on his back in the end zone, he held up the ball to show the referee. That gave San Diego a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter.
“Philip trusts in me to make plays,” Gates said. “I knew it was man coverage. The rest was history. I stuck out my hand and was able to make a one-handed grab. It just shows tremendous confidence in what the call was from the offensive coordinator on down to the quarterback.”
Defending champions Seattle (1-1) were efficient when they had the ball, but they just didn’t have it enough as the Chargers (1-1) dominated time of possession and wore out the Seahawks’ vaunted defence on a steamy afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
“They did a real good job on third down when they had the ball,” Wilson said. “They just sustained drives and kept us off the field offensively.”
In San Francisco, meanwhile, the Chicago Bears scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun San Francisco 28-20 on Sunday, which spoiled the 49ers’ first game in their new billion-dollar stadium.
Jay Cutler tossed four touchdown passes, including three in the fourth, to help the Bears (1-1) get their first win of the season.
After being down 17-0 in the second quarter and 20-7 in the third, Cutler found Brandon Marshall on a five-yard toss early in the final quarter to pull Chicago to 20-14.
Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller then intercepted a pass on San Francisco’s next possession and Cutler put the visitors ahead 21-20 on a three-yard throw to Martellus Bennett.
Chicago capitalised on yet another interception from Colin Kaepernick when Cutler drove the team 42 yards and connected with Marshall again for the final score.
San Francisco drove down to Chicago’s 17-yard line on their final possession but Kaepernick threw an incomplete pass on fourth down.
It was San Francisco’s first game in their new stadium in Santa Clara after ending a long and successful tenure at Candlestick Park last season.
Elsewhere, the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) took the early lead in the NFC West with Seattle and San Francisco losing, cruising past the New York Giants (0-2) on the road in a 25-14 win.
Robert Griffin III suffered an injury and paved the way for Kirk Cousins to come in and lead Washington (1-1) in a 41-10 romp over the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2). Cousins threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns after Griffin went down in the first quarter.
The Buffalo Bills (2-0) extended a promising start with a 29-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins (1-1), with EJ Manuel finding Sammy Watkins for eight catches, 117 yards and a touchdown. AFC East rivals New England Patriots (1-1) bounced back from an opening day loss to hammer the Minnesota Vikings (1-1) on the road, 30-7.
The Dallas Cowboys (1-1) breezed by the Tennessee Titans (1-1) on the road in a 26-10 win, with DeMarco Murray rushing for 167 yards and a touchdown. The Cleveland Browns (1-1) pulled off a surprise victory with a 26-24 win over the New Orleans Saints (0-2), as Billy Cundiff kicked a 29-yard field goal with time expiring to give the Browns the edge. Their NFC North rivals Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) stayed perfect with an easy 24-10 win over the visiting Atlanta Falcons.
The Denver Broncos (2-0), too, made it two wins in two tries as Peyton Manning threw three touchdown passes in a 24-17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs (0-2). Aaron Rodgers, with 346 yards and three touchdowns, turned in a sparkling display as well as the Green Bay Packers (1-1) scored a 31-24 victory over the New York Jets (1-1).
The Carolina Panthers (2-0) beat the Detroit Lions (1-1) 24-7, the Houston Texans (2-0) beat the Oakland Raiders (0-2) 30-14 and the St Louis Rams (1-1) topped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2) 19-17, as well.
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