NC Times: Career day by Gates helps Chargers fend off foe

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

By: JAY PARIS Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- This time, the Chargers' defense didn't get scared when a rival said "Boo!"

"We have to just focus on finishing the game,'' defensive tackle Jamal Williams said.

The Chargers did that ---- for a change ---- and defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 28-20 on Sunday before 65,750 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The victory lifted the Chargers to 4-4 and completed the season's first half, which showed as much promise as it did disappointment. The bummers came via four fourth-quarter meltdowns by a defense unable to hold leads.

But it was the Chiefs holding their noses when it came to guarding tight end Antonio Gates. He tied a career high with three touchdown catches and set career highs in receptions (10) and yards (145).

"It's fun to watch him progress because it's obvious he's going places that he's never really been before,'' coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The Chargers didn't want to imagine their destination if they lost to the Chiefs (4-3). So they built an early lead, then held on after the Chiefs mounted a second-half comeback.

Not squandering another fourth-quarter advantage was paramount to the Chargers. But when Lawrence Tynes kicked a 20-yard field goal to slice the Chargers' lead to 21-13 with 12 minutes to play, that little voice was going off in the players' heads: Here we go again.

"That's human nature,'' safety Bhawoh Jue said. "But you have to go against human nature''

The Chargers did, thanks to Gates' third touchdown catch. He corralled a Drew Brees pass with about nine minutes to play, shed safety Sammy Knight as if his first name were Gladys, and rumbled 35 yards for the score.

"Even if you double-team him, he can still make the plays,'' said Brees, who was 25-of-45 for 324 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. "He is a definitely a playmaker. What can I say?''

The Chargers said a prayer the play before, when LaDainian Tomlinson (69 yards rushing on 17 carries) fumbled at the Kansas City 35-yard line. But before the Chiefs could pounce on a possible game-changing fumble, right tackle Shane Olivea recovered it.

On the next play, Brees and Gates completed a hat trick with their third touchdown connection.

"That was huge,'' Brees said of Olivea's recovery.

Gates' big game was the key to this day, which produced the Chargers' second win in four weeks. But Gates never gets a big head, and that was evident in the Chargers' locker room. Instead of boasting about bettering the Chiefs' six-time Pro Bowl tight end, Tony Gonzalez, Gates shrugged off his performance.

Beating the Chiefs, not Gonzalez, was his objective. And that the Chargers did it with a banged-up squad made it all the better.

"That was the No. 1 goal," said Gates, who has six touchdown catches, tying him with Keenan McCardell for the team lead. "Me having a big game was half of it. I was put in situations to make plays and I was able to do that. You need to credit everyone else around me who allow me to make plays.''

The Chiefs, though, weren't done. They advanced to the Chargers 3 with five minutes remaining, poised to cut into the Chargers' 15-point cushion.

"You could feel them coming,'' cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "We started playing soft, and they started picking us apart."

But rookie Luis Castillo collared Trent Green for his first NFL sack and a loss of 6 yards. Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil went for it on fourth down, but a pressured Green threw an incompletion.

After the Chargers went three-and-out, the Chiefs went eight-and-in. Green hit Eddie Kennison on a 7-yard touchdown pass to make the score 28-20 with 2:16 to go.

Void of timeouts, the Chiefs could only attempt an on-side kick, which Kassim Osgood covered quickly.

The coverage was suspect on Gates and Eric Parker in the first half. Gates had scoring catches of 19 and 20 yards, and Parker caught Tomlinson's third touchdown pass in three attempts this season.

The Chargers held a 21-3 halftime edge, before Gonzalez scored on a 16-yard pass from Green midway through the third quarter.

But the Chargers, who couldn't escape a black cloud in Philadelphia last week, didn't wilt on a cloudless day at the 'Q.' Instead, they banked a win and barked about getting on a streak.

"We want to go 9-0,'' Castillo said about the team's attitude before the game. "And now we're 1-0.''