Thirty-eight years and 104 days.
That’s how old Antonio Gates is, yet he is still doing things that show why he’s a surefire Hall of Famer.
That includes coming through with a clutch touchdown on third down when his team was in a 14-0 hole, helping spark a gritty 29-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Gates only caught two passes, but they were good for 27 yards. His first was the aforementioned touchdown, which marks the 88th TD connection between number 85 and Philip Rivers. By now, everyone ought to know that is the most between any quarterback and tight end and ranks second all-time between any quarterback and pass catcher, trailing only Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The first quarter touchdown was also the 115th score of Gates’ career, which is the sixth-most of any player in league history.
It’s also notable because in the process, Gates become the oldest tight end in NFL history to haul in a touchdown pass. The fact he is able to still make these types of plays this late in his career is as much a testament to Gates’ talent as it is to his toughness and refusal to accept anything less than his best.
Add it all up, and it’s crazy to think that the legendary tight end was all alone in the end zone on the touchdown grab. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the five, how could the 49ers not account for the future Hall of Famer who has made his living along with Rivers in these situations?
Number 17 was asked this very question after the game, breaking down his 88th touchdown strike to his favorite target. After all, he too said it’s rare that teams leave Gates this wide open in the end zone.
“I wasn’t sure how they were going to play it,” he said. “The corner was out there with Melvin (Gordon), which usually the linebacker is on Melvin. And the linebacker was on Gates. I wasn’t really sure what they were in. They kind of did that to us all day, playing some man stuff with different guys to not let us get a feel for what they were in. I wanted to stare at Melvin first, thinking I wanted to throw him that quick slant, and they both drove Melvin. Then Gates just popped open. It’s not (often) when he’s that wide open.”
View the best action shots as the Chargers defeat the San Fransisco 49ers for the annual Latino Heritage game at home.