Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars was a landmark moment for the San Diego Chargers’ two most popular players, quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates. The Chargers’ win signaled the end of a six-game losing streak. Philip Rivers became the 17th player to surpass 40,000 career passing yards and became the fourth-fastest player to accomplish the feat. With four touchdown passes in the game, Rivers leapfrogged Joe Montana and is currently in a tie with Vinny Testaverde for 11th place for career touchdown passes.
Not to be outdone, Rivers’ favorite target is rewriting the record books himself these days. The season began on the suspended list for Gates after testing positive for an unspecified performance-enhancing drug. Since returning, Gates has picked up where he left off, and to date has 33 catches for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
In the Jacksonville game, Gates caught two of Rivers’ four touchdown passes. In doing so, Gates passed Kansas City Chiefs great Tony Gonzalez into first place for most two-touchdown games from a tight end. Gates now has 21 such games and counting. Only nine receivers (wide receivers and tight ends) have over 100 touchdowns in NFL history. Gates sits in 7th place on that list.
Another mark Gates is chasing Gonzalez for is most touchdown catches from a tight end. Gonzalez leads the list with 111 touchdowns. Gates currently has 103. Had it not been for the suspension, Gates would have likely passed Gonzalez this season. Also worthy of note is Gonzalez has played four years longer than Gates has at this point.
While it’s still possible Gates could break the record this season, he would likely have to play one more season to set the new standard for tight ends. There has been no formal statement, but many expect the Chargers’ tight end to retire after the season.
Rivers and Gates are already the most prolific quarterback/tight end combination in NFL history, as they have connected for touchdowns 76 times counting the Jaguars game. Now in his 12th NFL season, Gates has more than cemented his place as a future Hall Of Famer. While we would love to see the pair ride off into the sunset together, Gates predates Rivers by one year and injuries have worn him down through the years. Gates is in the final year of his contract. It remains to be seen if he will return for another season or call it a career.
We have all been witness to a true rags-to-riches story. Antonio Gates arrived at Chargers Park in 2003 as an undrafted free agent. Chargers’ brass saw something special in the power forward — who led the Kent State Golden Flashes hoops team into the Elite Eight in the 2002 NCAA Division I Men’s basketball tournament. Gates was able to use his prodigious talent on the basketball court and translate it to football where he and Gonzalez revolutionized the use of the tight end in the passing game instead of predominantly as a blocker.
Twelve years later, he is arguably the greatest tight end to play the game. He has provided Chargers fans with countless jaw-dropping, show-stopping moments, keying many wins for San Diego. These may be the last five opportunities we have to see Gates in lightning bolts. Show him your support and wear the No. 85 with pride.
The Greg One
In Sunday’s game at Jacksonville, San Diego Chargers’ all-everything quarterback Philip Rivers accomplished a pair of milestones to add to a laundry list of other career achievements. Rivers recovered from a dismal showing against the Kansas City Chiefs where he managed a season-low 178 yards through the air and no passing touchdowns in the Chargers’ 33-3 loss. Sunday, Rivers looked and played like the elite quarterback we all know him to be. He threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the 31-25 Bolts’ win.
With two touchdown passes going into halftime, Rivers moved into a tie for 13th place with San Francisco 49er legend Joe Montana for career touchdown passes (273). With two more touchdown passes in the second half, Rivers moved into a tie with Vinny Testaverde for 11th place on the all-time touchdown passes list (275). With his next touchdown pass, Rivers will move into sole possession of 11th place, pushing Testaverde into 12th place.
Ironically, sitting in tenth place is a man Rivers is forever tied to in NFL and Chargers lore, class of 2004 draft mate Eli Manning. With 282 scoring passes, Manning is seven touchdowns ahead of Rivers. What makes the accomplishment even more impressive for Rivers is the fact that he’s ready to surpass Manning even though the New York Giants’ QB had a two-year head start; Manning started from day one with the Giants. Rivers sat behind Drew Brees and didn’t start for the Chargers until his third season in the NFL.
Rivers entered the game needing 134 yards to reach the 40,000-yard plateau. In doing so, he became the fourth-fastest to accomplish the feat in NFL history. This season alone, Rivers has surpassed Chargers great Dan Fouts, Sonny Jurgensen, Dave Krieg, Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Montana on the all-time touchdown passes list. With five games remaining, he’s on pace to surpass Testaverde (275) and possibly Manning (282). Johnny Unitas (290) and Warren Moon (291) will fall to Rivers early next season, at the latest.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Rivers is an elite quarterback in this league. He is also the most taken for granted of the elite quarterbacks league-wide. The talking heads think there is room to debate whether Rivers is Hall-Of-Fame worthy. The accomplishments listed above should prove that he belongs in Canton, among his other achievements. The NFL and even a segment of Chargers fans don’t appreciate what the 33-year-old has accomplished in lightning bolts. He is a leader, a winner, an inspiration to all around him. Rivers ranks right next to Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers as the most cerebral quarterbacks in the league.
With the four-year extension Rivers signed this past offseason it ensures he will retire a Charger. We should all take the time to appreciate the brilliance this man shows us on a week-in, week-out basis before he’s gone and we all realize how good we had it when a rookie is trying to move the ball down the field for San Diego.
The Greg One