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A New First for Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates is the San Diego Chargers' all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.

His touchdown grab early in the first quarter was the 108th of his career, bringing him within three of Tony Gonzalez for most all time by an NFL tight end.

However, in his 196th career game, which ranks as the fourth-most in franchise history, he was asked to do something entirely different.

While he's had to block numerous times over his career, never was he asked to do it to the extent he did in Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans.  As Melvin Gordon ran for 196 yards and the Bolts churned out over 200 on the ground, number 85 was the lead blocker in isolation.

"Oh man, I don't really remember doing that (to that extent)," he laughed after the game.  "It wasn't the first (I've done it), but (it was the first) at that level and magnitude of constantly doing it... It was different.  At the same time, I know it sounds cliché, but the next man up is what I had to do at this point because of the injuries.  You can't say enough about the confidence that they have in me to do it.  I was able to get it done and I was able to do it as much as I could to establish the run game."

Even with the added responsibility, it was also a vintage Gates performance in the passing game.  The tight end had his best performance of the season, catching five passes for 75 yards and the 13-yard TD. He was the most targeted receiver as Philip Rivers looked his way nine times, and he came through with clutch catches, including a season-long 17-yarder.

Rivers lauded Gates' performance, but also stressed how big of an impact he had blocking in the run game.

"He played really good," Rivers said.  "This was obviously as physical a game as he's had to play in a long time. He was the lead blocker on ISO a handful of times today!  As he likes to say in his words, 'I'm in the mix out here today.' And he was.  He did a heck of a job.  And then a couple he caught off coming in there and going into the flat.  So it was a good job (and) a good plan by Whiz (Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt).  We got into a rhythm out of that personnel group.  A lot of times with Gates and three receivers it's heavy pass, but we were able to keep them honest and mix it because of formations and things we were doing."

As productive as Gates was, Rivers believes he should have had an even better performance.

"I wanted to get him another touchdown.  Coming into today, I shorted (him) and didn't quite get what I thought. I told the guys last night in the quarterback meeting he was going to get about nine catches and catch a couple touchdowns. He didn't quite get that but he definitely had a heck of a day."

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