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No Gates, No Glory for Chargers

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 13, 2005.

  1. robdog
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    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/scorecard/nflnews.asp?articleID=112777" target="_blank">Seattle Post-Intelligener</a>

    By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

    (Sports Network) - San Diego took a hard-line stance with tight end Antonio Gates when the Pro Bowler sat out most of the preseason in a contract dispute.

    The hard line ended up meaning some hard luck for the Chargers, who were 28-24 home losers to the Cowboys on Sunday.

    Gates was placed on the roster-exempt list on Aug. 20, a designation that meant the former Kent State basketball standout had to sit out the final two preseason games and opening regular season contest.

    Without the player that led the team with 81 receptions and 13 touchdown catches a year ago, San Diego's tight ends caught a total of two passes for minus-four yards (both by backup Justin Peelle). As Drew Brees' last-gasp throw fell into the hands of Cowboys cornerback Aaron Glenn in the waning moments, one couldn't help but think that the 6-4, 260-pound Gates might have been valuable in that and a host of other situations on Sunday.

    Brees was left to play damage control after the game, unconvincingly arguing that the absence of his No. 1 tight end was not much of a hindrance to the team.

    "Of course, Gates is a great player for us and he adds a lot to our offense," said Brees, who threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two picks. "(But) not having Antonio Gates is not the reason we played the way we played."

    Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who was held to 72 rushing yards on the day, felt that the Cowboys' defensive gameplan had much to do with Gates' inactive status.

    "I'm sure Bill [Parcells] said, 'If we stop the run, we have a great chance to win the game because they don't have their All-Pro tight end.'"

    CATCHING FIRE

    Veteran Keenan McCardell was Brees' No. 1 receiving option on Sunday, posting game-highs with nine catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. The 123 yards were the 35-year-old McCardell's most since he put up 132 while with the Jaguars (vs. Kansas City) in 2001, and the two scores matched a career-high. McCardell could have added a third touchdown, but was unable to come up with two passes thrown in his direction on an ultimately fruitless final drive. The absence of Gates was likely a major reason for the big numbers put up by McCardell, but he wasn't biting on that angle.

    "As a receiver you expect to be involved like that, regardless if Gates is there or not," McCardell said. "With Gates not being there, everybody, not just me, realized that they had to step up and play bigger."

    SACKS YES, PICKS NO

    The Chargers finished 31st in the league in passing defense a year ago, a problem the team attempted to rectify by bolstering their pass rush in the offseason. And while the initial returns on that transformation were positive, the team's old Achilles heel - the secondary - reared its ugly head again.

    Drew Bledsoe threw for 226 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and the team's receiving trio of Keyshawn Johnson (5 receptions, 65 yards, 2 TD), Patrick Crayton (6 receptions, 89 yards, 1 TD) and Terry Glenn (3 receptions, 42 yards) each had a positive impact. Johnson burned Charger corner Sammy Davis for the final touchdown in the waning moments.

    The work of the secondary overshadowed the four sacks San Diego recorded against Bledsoe, including one each for outside linebackers Steve Foley, Ben Leber, and end Shaun Phillips. The effort was a good one for a team that finished near the bottom of the league with just 29 sacks last season.

    First-round draft choice and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman played in the contest but did not record any statistics.

    THE INVISIBLE MAN

    San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron drew almost immediate criticism following the loss due to the absence of touches for Tomlinson, particularly on the ill-fated final drive. Tomlinson did not have an official carry or catch (a rush early in the drive was called back due to a holding call) during the 11-play drive that ended with Aaron Glenn's interception in the end zone with 22 seconds to play.

    For the game, the two-time Pro Bowler rushed 19 times for 72 yards and a touchdown, and did not have a reception in the contest. Tomlinson, who had 291 catches in his first four seasons, had registered at least one reception in his first 63 regular season appearances.

    UP NEXT

    The Chargers will look to rebound next Sunday, when they take to the road to face the Broncos at 4:15 ET. Denver also assumed a disappointing loss in Week 1, falling to Miami, 34-10.

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