SAN DIEGO – Antonio Gates hears the talk every offseason, that he’s lost a step and isn’t effective anymore.
He just shrugs it off.
It was vintage Gates on display Sunday, when the star tight end caught three touchdown passes from Philip Rivers to lead the San Diego Chargers to a 30-21 victory against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
The 34-year-old Gates scored on catches of 8, 8 and 21 yards as the Chargers controlled the ball and kept Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field.
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.”
Rivers has been throwing passes to Gates for nine seasons now.
It wasn’t quite like sandlot ball, but with these two guys, it might as well have been.
“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.”
Redskins 41, Jaguars 10: In Landover, Maryland, Robert Griffin III dislocated his left ankle and DeSean Jackson sprained his left shoulder in the first quarter, then Kirk Cousins stepped in. He completed 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns Sunday in Washington’s 41-10 romp past Jacksonville.
Griffin was carted to the locker room with his leg in a splint and could be out for two months. He will undergo X-rays to determine if the ankle is broken.
Bears 28, 49ers 20: In Santa Clara, Californiaay Cutler passed for three fourth-quarter touchdowns after much of Chicago’s starting defense went down in the regular-season debut of Levi’s Stadium.
Cutler threw three TD passes to Brandon Marshall, two in the wild fourth quarter, as Chicago (1-1) erased a 13-point deficit and quieted the sellout crowd. Cutler threw for two scores in a 27-second span early in the final period, aided by the gutsy play of a backup cornerback.
Rookie Kyle Fuller made two late interceptions for the depleted Chicago secondary, and the first set up the go-ahead score.
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for “inappropriate language” following Fuller’s first big play. Cutler threw a 3-yard TD pass to Martellus Bennett as the Bears went ahead 21-20.
Kaepernick threw three interceptions in all and lost a fumble for the Niners (1-1).
Browns 26, Saints 24: In Cleveland, Billy Cundiff kicked a 29-yard field goal with 3 seconds left. Cundiff’s kick helped the Browns (1-1) snap a nine-game losing streak in home openers and gave rookie coach Mike Pettine his first NFL win.
Brian Hoyer drove the Browns 85 yards in 14 plays in the final 2:46 to set up Cundiff’s winner. Hoyer completed several big passes, none more crucial than his 28-yarder to Andrew Hawkins with 13 seconds to go.
Packers 31, Jets 24: In Green Bay, Wisconsin, Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns, Jordy Nelson had a career-high 209 yards receiving and the Packers rallied from an 18-point deficit.
New York appeared to tie it with 5 minutes left on a 37-yard catch by Jeremy Kerley on fourth down — but it was negated because the Jets (1-1) called a timeout from the sideline just before the snap. The Packers (1-1) held on from there to avoid their first 0-2 start since 2006.
Bengals 24, Falcons 10: In Cincinnati, one Bengals player after another hobbled off and headed to the locker room. They still had more than enough to stay unbeaten with a win over Atlanta (1-1).
Running back Giovani Bernard picked up the depleted offense by running for 90 yards. Cincinnati’s defense held down Matt Ryan and the Bengals won their home opener and improved to 2-0 for the first time since 2006.
But Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green aggravated an injured toe on his right foot, and didn’t catch a pass for the first time in his four-year career. Tight end Alex Smith injured his left biceps, right guard Kevin Zeitler hurt his right calf, and Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict left in the second half with a pinched nerve in his neck. Burfict suffered a concussion in a season-opening win at Baltimore and missed practice during the week.
Bills 29, Dolphins 10: In Orchard Park, New York, C.J. Spiller scored on a 102-yard kickoff return, and rookie receiver Sammy Watkins had a 12-yard touchdown catch.
The Dolphins (1-1) also lost a key offseason addition when running back Knowshon Moreno did not return after hurting his left elbow 11 minutes in.
Spiller and Watkins, the Clemson connection, both scored in the third quarter, putting Buffalo (2-0) ahead 23-10.
Patriots 30, Vikings 7: In Minneapolis, Tom Brady and the Patriots took advantage of Adrian Peterson’s absence and Matt Cassel’s four interceptions.
Chandler Jones returned a field goal he blocked for a touchdown right before halftime.
Brady went 15 for 22 for 149 yards, one touchdown and no turnovers, and Cassel’s first start against his close friend and former mentor was a dud. Devin McCourty, Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan and Dominique Easley all picked him off, setting up 17 points for the Patriots, prompting “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!” chants from the crowd for the rookie Bridgewater.
Broncos 24, Chiefs 17: In Denver, Terrance Knighton batted away Alex Smith’s fourth-and-goal pass to Dwayne Bowe with 15 seconds left.
The Broncos (2-0) thought they had sealed the win twice earlier on the drive. Aqib Talib’s interception return for a TD was negated when Quanterus Smith jumped offside. Then Nate Irving’s fumble recovery following DeMarcus Ware’s sack and strip was ruled an incomplete pass after a replay.
The Chiefs (0-2) converted 11 of 16 third-down opportunities overall. They just couldn’t capitalize in the biggest moments as the Broncos mustered two goal-line stands for the second straight week.
Panthers 24, Lions 7: In Charlotte, North Carolina, Cam Newton made a successful return to the field, throwing for 281 yards and a touchdown. Newton, who missed the season opener with a rib injury, was 22 of 34 and overcame five sacks. Carolina started 2-0 for the first time since 2008.
Trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, the Panthers took advantage of back-to-back Detroit turnovers and scored on three straight possessions.
Cowboys 26, Titans 10: In Nashville, Tennessee, DeMarco Murray ran for 167 yards and a touchdown and Dan Bailey kicked four field goals. The loss spoiled Tennessee first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt’s home debut.
Dallas (1-1) scored the first 16 points of the game in the first half.
Texans 30, Raiders 14: In Oakland, J.J. Watt caught a 1-yard touchdown pass, Arian Foster ran for 138 yards and a score and the Texans won their second straight game.
Instead of controlling the game from his usual defensive end position, Watt made his biggest impact on the opening drive when he lined up as a tight end. He caught a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to get Houston (2-0) started.
Rams 19, Buccaneers 17: In Tampa, Greg Zuerlein’s fourth field goal, a 38-yarder with 38 seconds remaining, gave third-string quarterback Austin Davis and the Rams a tight win.
Davis completed 22 of 29 passes for 235 yards with no interceptions in his first NFL start. Zac Stacy had a 2-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Zuerlein also delivered field goals of 36, 35 and 46 yards to help the Rams (1-1) rebound from a lopsided opening loss to Minnesota.
Bobby Rainey rushed 144 yards and quarterback Josh McCown had two short TD runs for the Bucs (0-2). Tampa moved into St. Louis territory in the closing second. The game ended when rookie Mike Evans was slow getting up after a 29-yard reception to the St. Louis 32.
Cardinals 25, Giants 14: In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Ted Ginn Jr. ran 71 yards on a punt return for a go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown.
Playing in a regular-season game for the first time since 2010, Drew Stanton replaced the scratched Carson Palmer and led the Cardinals (2-0) on three long scoring drives. Arizona won for the ninth time in 11 games.