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For Gates, one play overshadows another

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 8, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    The Chargers regular season opener turned out to be an emotional one for four-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. After sitting out the entire preseason due to a toe injury, Gates stepped onto the field Sunday in his first competition since last season.

    Despite the team-leading 61 yards on four catches and one touchdown that Gates put on the board, the six-year veteran could show no sign of satisfaction, his mind lingering only on one play that took place late in the third quarter.

    With 1:42 left in the third quarter and the Bolts leading Carolina by one, quarterback Philip Rivers threw a seven-yard pass to Gates, who caught it and took a couple of steps before he was hit by Panthers safety Chris Harris.

    While making sure he’d gained enough yardage for the first down, Gates was hit by Harris and fumbled at the San Diego 31 yard line, the first fumble Gates has had in 339 touches. The ball was recovered by Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble and ran all the way back for a touchdown, putting Carolina ahead 16-10.

    “I tried to do as much as I can,” Gates said. “There’s some things I still need to get cleaned up. That play when they stripped the ball out of my hands, I think that was a critical part of the game. I take the blame for it. I’ve been playing long enough that I know that I need to hold onto the ball and be able to convert that third down and we would have still had the ball.”

    Gates got back on track midway through the fourth quarter when he caught a 24-yard touchdown pass to put the Chargers within a field goal from the lead.

    “I owed it to my team, that’s the way I look at it,” Gates said. “I was frustrated because I thought (the fumble) was a big part of the game, a huge part of the game, and I wanted to redeem myself. Fortunately Phillip was able to find me.”

    Gates teammates still displayed much confidence in their starting tight end.

    “He did some good things for us and he’s a heck of a competitor,” running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “I could tell that play was eating him up and that’s how much the guy cares. Anytime you have a guy like that you know that he’s going to make up for it which he did when he came back and scored that touchdown.”

    For Gates, the fact that he caught his first touchdown pass of the season in a very critical part of the game did not take away from the mistake he felt he had made earlier.

    “I think a mistake free game (rather than the touchdown), for me, just accomplishes more for us,” Gates said. “But it’s the first game of the season. We have time to build on it, and like I said, it’s a marathon.”


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