SAN DIEGO (AP) — 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 nifty, one-handed grab, and the San Diego Chargers controlled the tempo to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field and beat Seattle 30-21.
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 spectacular, 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.
Seattle (1-1) was efficient when it had the ball, but the Super Bowl champions 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."
San Diego had the ball for 42:15 compared to 17:45 for Seattle.
After Gates' third scoring catch, Wilson moved the Seahawks 70 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown throw to 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.