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 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."
Gates missed most of the Chargers' offseason workouts to be with his 22-year-old sister, Pamela, who died on July 23 after battling lupus for three years.
"Obviously I dealt with issues all offseason, but I'm not the only player on this team that's had issues," Gates said. "Just the fact that we continue to believe that we can achieve what we set aside to accomplish. This speaks volumes to what the locker room is about, and what we believe we can go out and do on Sundays."
Rivers has thrown 65 touchdown passes to Gates, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and a tight end.
"He definitely capitalized on every opportunity he had and he showed why he is an All-Pro tight end," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said.
"I hadn't seen him from the early days, but I can tell you he is a good tight end," Chancellor added. "First thing is he had a good quarterback. A quarterback that looks for him that knows him. They have that bond, that quarterback-tight end bond. And he is very crafty. He is a crafty tight end."
The three touchdown receptions tied Gates' career high. Rivers was 28-of-37 for 284 yards.
Seattle (1-1) was efficient when it had the ball, but it just didn't have it enough as the Chargers (1-1) dominated time of possession and wore out the Seahawks' vaunted defense 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."
After Gates' third scoring catch, Wilson moved the Seahawks 70 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Lynch to pull to 27-21.
Seattle turned the ball over on downs on its 10 in the closing minutes and San Diego's Nick Novak kicked his third field goal, from 28 yards, with 16 seconds left.
Percy Harvin gave the Chargers a big gift when he fumbled the kickoff at the 28 after Novak's 43-yard field goal gave the Chargers a 13-7 lead with 4:40 to go before halftime.
After consecutive 10-yard penalties gave the Chargers a first-and-goal from the 23, Rivers completed a 15-yard screen pass to Eddie Royal before evading pressure and hitting Gates for their second scoring hookup of the quarter.
Wilson wasted no time in leading the Seahawks 61 yards in five plays, hitting Robert Turbin on a 3-yard TD pass to pull to 20-14. Turbin also had a 32-yard catch and a 10-yard run on the drive.
San Diego running back Ryan Mathews was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury early in the fourth quarter. Chargers coach Mike McCoy said the team was still evaluating Mathews' injury.
Dwight Freeney sacked Wilson to force the Seahawks to punt on their first drive. Novak kicked a 50-yard field goal for San Diego.
The Seahawks came back with a three-play, 60-yard drive capped when Harvin took a pitch from Wilson, got the edge and ran 51 yards down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead. But Harvin had stepped on the sideline during the run and the NFL said after the game the score was "incorrectly confirmed." The league said the ball should have been spotted at the 21-yard line.
San Diego had the ball for 42:15 compared to 17:45 for Seattle, and gained 26 first downs to 14 for the Seahawks. ... Chargers LT King Dunlap left the game in the third quarter but returned.
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