Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Gates' 3 TD catches carry Bolts to 30-21 upset

Philip Rivers has been throwing passes to Antonio Gates for nine seasons now, so games like Sunday's are bound to happen.

It wasn't quite like sandlot ball, but with these two guys, it might as well have been.

Gates had three touchdown catches, including a spectacular, one-handed grab, and the Chargers controlled the tempo to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field to beat the Seahawks 30-21 on Sunday.

The 34-year-old Gates scored on catches of 8, 8 and 21 yards.

"He doesn't surprise me, but I will say all three touchdown catches, for the most part, didn't come up exactly like they were drawn up," Rivers said. "They're a little bit backyard. We ended up close to the spots we were trying to do, but just a little bit different based on technique. They were obviously huge plays."

Gates' 21-yarder was epic, as the star tight end split two defenders and extended for Rivers' pass, reaching out with his left hand to gather it in. Flat on his back in the end zone, he held up the ball to show the referee. That gave San Diego a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter.

"Philip trusts in me to make plays," Gates said. "I knew it was man coverage. The rest was history. I stuck out my hand and was able to make a one-handed grab. It just shows tremendous confidence in what the call was from the offensive coordinator on down to the quarterback."

Gates missed most of the Chargers' offseason workouts to be with his 22-year-old sister, Pamela, who died on July 23 after battling lupus for three years.

"Obviously I dealt with issues all offseason, but I'm not the only player on this team that's had issues," Gates said. "Just the fact that we continue to believe that we can achieve what we set aside to accomplish. This speaks volumes to what the locker room is about, and what we believe we can go out and do on Sundays."

Rivers has thrown 65 touchdown passes to Gates, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and a tight end.

"He definitely capitalized on every opportunity he had and he showed why he is an All-Pro tight end," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said.

"I hadn't seen him from the early days, but I can tell you he is a good tight end," Chancellor added. "First thing is he had a good quarterback. A quarterback that looks for him that knows him. They have that bond, that quarterback-tight end bond. And he is very crafty. He is a crafty tight end."

The three touchdown receptions tied Gates' career high. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 284 yards.

Seattle (1-1) was efficient when it had the ball, but it just didn't have it enough as the Chargers (1-1) dominated time of possession and wore out the Seahawks' vaunted defense on a steamy afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.

"They did a real good job on third down when they had the ball," Wilson said. "They just sustained drives and kept us off the field offensively."

After Gates' third scoring catch, Wilson moved the Seahawks 70 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Marshawn Lynch to pull to 27-21.

Seattle turned the ball over on downs on its 10 in the closing minutes and San Diego's Nick Novak kicked his third field goal, from 28 yards, with 16 seconds left.

Percy Harvin gave the Chargers a big gift when he fumbled the kickoff at the 28 after Novak's 43-yard field goal gave the Chargers a 13-7 lead with 4:40 to go before halftime.

After consecutive 10-yard penalties gave the Chargers a first-and-goal from the 23, Rivers completed a 15-yard screen pass to Eddie Royal before evading pressure and hitting Gates for their second scoring hookup of the quarter.

Wilson wasted no time in leading the Seahawks 61 yards in five plays, hitting Robert Turbin on a 3-yard TD pass to pull to 20-14. Turbin also had a 32-yard catch and a 10-yard run on the drive.

San Diego running back Ryan Mathews was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury early in the fourth quarter. Chargers coach Mike McCoy said the team was still evaluating Mathews' injury.

Dwight Freeney sacked Wilson to force the Seahawks to punt on their first drive. Novak kicked a 50-yard field goal for San Diego.

The Seahawks came back with a three-play, 60-yard drive capped when Harvin took a pitch from Wilson, got the edge and ran 51 yards down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead. But Harvin had stepped on the sideline during the run and the NFL said after the game the score was "incorrectly confirmed." The league said the ball should have been spotted at the 21-yard line.

NOTES: San Diego had the ball for 42:15 compared to 17:45 for Seattle, and gained 26 first downs to 14 for the Seahawks. ... Chargers LT King Dunlap left the game in the third quarter but returned.

Seahawks stuck by bolts

Philip Rivers has been throwing passes to Antonio Gates for nine seasons now, so games like Sunday's are bound to happen.
It wasn't quite like sandlot ball, but with these two guys, it might as well have been.
Gates had three touchdown catches, including a spectacular, one-handed grab, and the Chargers controlled the tempo to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field to beat the Seahawks 30-21 on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Gates scored on catches of 8, 8 and 21 yards.
"He doesn't surprise me, but I will say all three touchdown catches, for the most part, didn't come up exactly like they were drawn up," Rivers said. "They're a little bit backyard. We ended up close to the spots we were trying to do, but just a little bit different based on technique. They were obviously huge plays."
Gates' 21-yarder was epic, as the star tight end split two defenders and extended for Rivers' pass, reaching out with his left hand to gather it in. Flat on his back in the end zone, he held up the ball to show the referee. That gave San Diego a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter.
"Philip trusts in me to make plays," Gates said. "I knew it was man coverage. The rest was history. I stuck out my hand and was able to make a one-handed grab. It just shows tremendous confidence in what the call was from the offensive coordinator on down to the quarterback."
Gates missed most of the Chargers' offseason workouts to be with his 22-year-old sister, Pamela, who died on July 23 after battling lupus for three years.
"Obviously I dealt with issues all offseason, but I'm not the only player on this team that's had issues," Gates said. "Just the fact that we continue to believe that we can achieve what we set aside to accomplish. This speaks volumes to what the locker room is about, and what we believe we can go out and do on Sundays."
Rivers has thrown 65 touchdown passes to Gates, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and a tight end.
"He definitely capitalized on every opportunity he had and he showed why he is an All-Pro tight end," Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said.
"I hadn't seen him from the early days, but I can tell you he is a good tight end," Chancellor added. "First thing is he had a good quarterback. A quarterback that looks for him that knows him. They have that bond, that quarterback-tight end bond. And he is very crafty. He is a crafty tight end."
The three touchdown receptions tied Gates' career high. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 284 yards.
Seattle (1-1) was efficient when it had the ball, but it just didn't have it enough as the Chargers (1-1) dominated time of possession and wore out the Seahawks' vaunted defense on a steamy afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
"They did a real good job on third down when they had the ball," Wilson said. "They just sustained drives and kept us off the field offensively."
After Gates' third scoring catch, Wilson moved the Seahawks 70 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Marshawn Lynch to pull to 27-21.
Seattle turned the ball over on downs on its 10 in the closing minutes and San Diego's Nick Novak kicked his third field goal, from 28 yards, with 16 seconds left.
Percy Harvin gave the Chargers a big gift when he fumbled the kickoff at the 28 after Novak's 43-yard field goal gave the Chargers a 13-7 lead with 4:40 to go before halftime.
After consecutive 10-yard penalties gave the Chargers a first-and-goal from the 23, Rivers completed a 15-yard screen pass to Eddie Royal before evading pressure and hitting Gates for their second scoring hookup of the quarter.
Wilson wasted no time in leading the Seahawks 61 yards in five plays, hitting Robert Turbin on a 3-yard TD pass to pull to 20-14. Turbin also had a 32-yard catch and a 10-yard run on the drive.
San Diego running back Ryan Mathews was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury early in the fourth quarter. Chargers coach Mike McCoy said the team was still evaluating Mathews' injury.
Dwight Freeney sacked Wilson to force the Seahawks to punt on their first drive. Novak kicked a 50-yard field goal for San Diego.
The Seahawks came back with a three-play, 60-yard drive capped when Harvin took a pitch from Wilson, got the edge and ran 51 yards down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead. But Harvin had stepped on the sideline during the run and the NFL said after the game the score was "incorrectly confirmed." The league said the ball should have been spotted at the 21-yard line.
NOTES: San Diego had the ball for 42:15 compared to 17:45 for Seattle, and gained 26 first downs to 14 for the Seahawks. ... Chargers LT King Dunlap left the game in the third quarter but returned.

Bucs fall short to Rams

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 38-yard field goal with less than a minute remaining to lift the injury-riddled St. Louis Rams to a 19-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Austin Davis, who began the season No. 3 on the Rams depth chart, made his first career start and completed 22-of-29 passes for 235 yards. The former walk-on at Southern Miss led a 12-play drive in the final minutes that led to Zuerlein's game-winning kick. Davis made a number of impressive throws on the drive, none bigger than his 27-yard toss to Austin Pettis on third down.

Tampa Bay got the ball back with 38 seconds and quickly moved down the field. Josh McCown completed a 19-yard pass underneath to Bobby Rainey, then went up top to rookie Mike Evans for 29 yards. Out of timeouts, the Bucs hurried to the line of scrimmage, but with eight seconds left, Evans was unable to walk off the field on his own power after taking a crushing blow following his catch. According to league rules, there was a 10 second runoff and the game was over.

McCown threw for 179 yards and an interception while adding two rushing scores on his only two carries for Tampa Bay (0-2), which started 0-2 for the second straight season. Rainey started in place of an injured Doug Martin and ran 22 times for 144 yards.

"It's unfortunate we didn't handle the situation as well as we needed to there at the end," Bucs head coach Lovie Smith said.

Zuerlein went 4-for-4 on field goals for the Rams (1-1), who bounced back after getting blown out in Week 1 by the Vikings.

Davis became the first Rams quarterback to win his first career start since Scott Covington on Dec. 30, 2002.

"I felt a peace out there. I felt at home, and it had a lot to do with the guys I was around and how well we played," Davis said.

Tampa Bay took the opening kickoff and looked like a well-oiled machine on its first drive, marching 77 yards for a score. Rainey carried five times for 26 yards and McCown put the finishing touches on the 10-play drive with a short touchdown run.

The Rams responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Consecutive receptions by Brian Quick for 14 and 16 yards and an 18-yard carry by Tavon Austin led to Zac Stacy's 2-yard touchdown carry.

McCown led another extended drive, leading the Bucs inside the Rams 10 before his pass intended for Vincent Jackson was picked off by Rodney McLeod, ending the scoring threat.

Then came the lightning. Storms in the area caused a prolonged delay in the game. When it finally returned, Zuerlein kicked a 36-yard field goal to send the Rams into halftime with a 10-7 lead.

The Bucs set up at their own 40 following Stacy's fumble on the first drive of the second half. McCown completed three passes to Jackson for 44 yards on the drive and ran it in from a yard out to make it 14-10.

The Rams took more than 6 1/2 minutes off the clock on their next touch, which ended in a 35-yard field goal by Zuerlein.

Zuerlein kicked another field goal -- this time from 46 yards out -- early in the fourth quarter to put the Rams in front. Tampa came back and moved into scoring position thanks to Rainey's 31-yard scamper, and Patrick Murray made it 17-16 with his 36-yard kick. Murray had a field goal blocked by E.J. Gaines earlier in the half.

Game Notes

Davis completed passes to eight different receivers ... McCown's last game with two rushing touchdowns came in Week 15, 2004, as a member of the Cardinals ... Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy left the game with a hand injury ... This was Rainey's third career game rushing for 100-plus yards ... Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks was inducted into the Buccaneers Ring of Honor at halftime.

Rams rally to knock off Bucs 19-17

Quarterback Austin Davis, making his first NFL start in place of the injured Shaun Hill, played efficient, turnover-free football. But it took injured Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans to allow the Rams to escape with a 19-17 victory — their first of the season.

A 27-yard completion from Josh McCown to Evans on the final series of the game gave the Bucs a first down at the St. Louis 32, within range of a field goal attempt by Tampa to win the game.

But because Evans was injured and Tampa had no timeouts left, there was a 10-second runoff _ by rule. (It's designed to keep trailing teams from faking injury to stop the clock.)

There were only 8 seconds left on the clock at the time. So the game ended right there: Rams 19, Bucs 17.

Greg Zuerlein's game-winning field goal came from 38 yards out with 38 seconds left.

For the second time in as many games, the Rams won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, which meant their defense took the field first.

Maybe the Rams should re-think that next week. Because for the second week in a row, the opposing team scored off the opening kickoff. Last week, it was Minnesota with a field goal on its first drive.

This week, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown off the opening kickoff, on a five-yard scramble by Josh McCown with 8:56 to go in the first quarter. The Rams were gracious on defense, getting called offsides on two of the game's first four plays.

The first penalty (against William Hayes) was declined because running back Bobby Rainey, starting in place of the injured Doug Martin, ran for 24 yards around right end.

And then, on second-and-6 from the Rams 40, Michael Brockers was called for offsides. This proved very costly because it looked like James Laurinaitis recovered a fumble by McCown and returned it 66 yards for a Rams touchdown.

Instead of a Rams TD, it was second-and-1, Bucs, from the St. Louis 35. Rainey was stopped by Eugene Sims for no gain on third-and-1 from the 35. But Sims brought Rainey down with a horse-collar tackle drawing the flag.

So instead of a fourth-down choice from the 35 between kicking a field goal and going it for it, the Bucs had a first down at the St. Louis 20 after the 15-yard penalty.

The Bucs were in the end zone six plays later.

The Rams came right back on their first possession, marching 80 yards on 10 plays for a game-tying touchdown. Back-to-back receptions by Brian Quick accounted for 30 of those 80 yards, and Tavon Austin tacked on 18 with an end-around that advanced the ball to the Tampa 18.

The next three plays were carries by Zac Stacy, with the third going for two yards and a game-tying touchdown behind a heavy formation that included backup center Tim Barnes as an eligible extra blocker.

Tampa Bay was in scoring position on its next series, advancing all the way to the St. Louis 9. But McCown, under pressure from Laurinaitis, made a horrible decision in throwing towards the end zone instead of throwing it away.

Rams free safety Rodney McLeod scooped up the low throw for an interception _ the third of his NFL career _ and the Rams took over at their 2 with 11:14 to go in the second quarter.

Five minutes later, the lightning came and the game was delayed. On the last play before the delay, Austin suffered a knee injury trying to make a catch on an Austin Davis pass that fell incomplete.

Austin warmed up with the team after the weather delay, but when play resumed he was watching with his right knee wrapped and his helmet off on the sideline.

A blocked punt by safety T.J. McDonald gave the Rams possession at the Tampa Bay 28 with 3:19 left to go in the half. By the drive stalled when Davis couldn't handle a shotgun snap from center Scott Wells on third-and-5 from the Bucs' 12. After the six-yard loss Greg Zuerlein kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Rams a 10-7 lead _ their first lead of the season.

That lead disappeared in the third quarter after a Zac Stacy fumble in Tampa territory on the opening drive of the second half. Safety Dahon Goldson recovered on the Bucs 40 and in the end zone seven plays later on a one-yard run by QB McCown. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson had catches of 20 and 18 yards on the play.

But the Rams added a pair of Zuerlein field goals to take a 16-14 lead 6 minutes into the fourth quarter. But as was frequently the case Sunday, the Rams couldn't stand prosperity. A roughing the passer penalty against Jo-Lonn Dunbar on Tampa's next drive prevented the Bucs' from punting.

A 31-yard run by Rainey put the Bucs in position for a 36-yard field goal by rookie Patrick Murray, giving Tampa a 17-16 lead with just over 5 minutes to play. It was Murray's first NFL field goal.