There was not just one play that lost the game for the Chargers against the Colts on Sunday, but Hunter Henry's fumble as the Chargers attempted a game-winning drive with a minute to go sealed the Bolts' fate.
It was a tough moment for an impressive rookie that has turned heads since being drafted in the second round. From teammates and coaches inside Chargers Park to opposing teams and national pundits, Henry has earned rave reviews for being a complete all-around tight end.
Still, that didn't make his fumble any easier to swallow. Lucky for him, it's times like this he has the one and only Antonio Gates in his corner.
As the oldest player on the Bolts roster, number 85 has taken the 21 year old under his wing from the moment he arrived. Fifteen years his elder, Gates relishes serving as the rookie's mentor, eager to provide support and advice for Henry on and off the field.
A strong candidate to one day be enshrined in Canton, Gates' rookie year featured a play awfully similar to Henry's fumble. As Henry walked to the sideline on Sunday after his crucial fumble, Gates made a beeline to his "younger brother" to share an important story from his past.
"I've learned over time to see light into things that happen like that," Gates said. "I told him my story about how when I was a rookie, we were in Jacksonville and I was going in to score and I fumbled. We lost the game. I told him how I went 10 years after that before I fumbled again. I learned from that. The morale of the story I told him is this will strengthen you at the end of the day."
That was just the tip of the iceberg of what Gates said to his young protégé.
"You didn't do anything wrong," he told Henry. "You were making a play and trying to make a bigger play. You were trying. If you weren't trying, I'd have a problem with that. You played a hell of a game. Don't let that take anything away from the game that you had. You played a hell of a game."
Gates has had countless teammates over 14 seasons in the NFL. A mentor to many, he's taken it a step further with this year's second round pick. In fact, Gates often jokes that had he met Henry prior to the draft, the Arkansas product wouldn't have lasted until the 35th pick.
"From the time I met him, I could see he had all the intangibles. I see him still growing. I jokingly told him, 'If I met you before the Combine, you would have went first round! I would have showed you how to have some personality in your routes!' Now you are seeing that personality in his routes. He already had it all, and now he is just building on it. He is a phenomenal blocker, which is rare to see coming into the league. He's special. He really is."
Pausing for a brief moment, Gates let out a small sigh before continuing.
"I mean, he had a turnover. That wasn't the play that lost the game for us. We had issues leading up to that. We had issues on third down, missed an extra point, missed wide open throws, had penalties; there were a ton of things we could have done better. There was no one player you could point to and say he was the reason we lost. It was a collective loss."