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Three Chargers get Pro Bowl honors

Posted Dec 28, 2010

Antonio Gates, Kris Dielman and Philip Rivers were selected to the AFC roster.

SAN DIEGO – Though it’s probably little consolation to the players, three Chargers were voted to the AFC Pro Bowl squad and three others were selected as alternates, the NFL announced Tuesday.

Tight end Antonio Gates and left guard Kris Dielman were named as starters. Quarterback Philip Rivers also is on the AFC roster.

All three selections are part of an offense that’s second in the NFL in total offense at 392.1 yards per game and fourth in scoring at 27.2 points per game.

Gates made his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl despite missing five games with a torn right plantar fascia that occurred during a Week 6 game at St. Louis and left him with acute pain for the remainder of the season.

Gates appeared poised for a second consecutive 1,000-yard season before the injury and was on pace to break his own NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end. Through Week 7, Gates caught 35 passes for 540 yards and eight touchdowns. He will finish the season with 50 catches and a team-high 782 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Rivers, making his third Pro Bowl in four seasons as starting quarterback, should record a passer rating of more than 100 for a third consecutive season.

Despite missing his top four receivers and starting tight end at one point, Rivers broke Dan Fouts’ NFL record for passing yards through the first eight games of the season and has a chance to make the top 10 in league history for single-season passing yards. His 4,397 passing yards through 15 games are a career high. Rivers also is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt and has thrown 30 touchdown passes.

Dielman made his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl and is on track to play in 15 games for the Bolts, which he’s done every season since 2004. Known as an aggressive and physical run blocker, Dielman’s consistent performance in pass protection played an important role in the Chargers’ offensive success this season. He also provided a veteran presence alongside Brandyn Dombrowski, a young player who started the first five games at left tackle before Marcus McNeill signed his one-year contract and returned Week 6.

Led by the strong left side, the offensive line has allowed Rivers to be sacked just 13 times in the last nine games. The Chargers’ three running backs also are averaging 4.2 yards per carry, up from 3.6 last season.

Left tackle Marcus McNeill was voted a second alternate. Defensive tackle Antonio Garay and outside linebacker Shaun Phillips are third alternates and the lone representatives from a defense ranked first in the NFL in total defense at 267.2 yards per game.

McNeill is a Pro Bowl alternate for the fourth consecutive season despite missing the first five games.

On defense, Garay is an alternate for the first time in his career after returning to the field late last season from a horrific leg injury he suffered Dec. 6, 2007. He emerged from a crowded competition to claim the starting nose tackle position out of training camp, a crucial role in Ron Rivera’s 3-4 defense.

Nose tackle isn’t a position that generates many defensive stats, but Garay’s play has helped slice the production of opposing running backs by nearly a yard per carry from last season and limit opposing running backs to 90.3 rushing yards per game. Garay also has 57 tackles, five sacks and 13 quarterback hits, deploying his athleticism to collapse the middle of the opposing offensive line.

Phillips is one sack away from a new career high while he’s morphed into the lead pass rusher for the Chargers. His 11 sacks and 18 pressures lead the team and his seven passes defensed are second to Antoine Cason.

Phillips’ four-sack performance against Arizona in Week 4 is the best of his career. He also returned an interception for a touchdown and played stout against the run to earn himself AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Phillips has at least seven sacks in each of the last six seasons and now has the fourth-most sacks in franchise history.

Pro Bowl selections are tabulated by equally-weighted votes from fans, coaches and players. Gates is the only Chargers player that led the AFC in fan votes at his position.

The game will be played Jan. 30, 2011, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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