Case in point: Rivers said on his 56-yard touchdown pass to Gates with 6:54 left that he knew pre-snap the athletic tight end had a chance to get deep on Dallas linebacker Sean Lee. But initially, Rivers thought the pass might be too long.
“When he accelerated, at first I thought I overthrew him,” Rivers said following the Chargers' 30-21 victory. “And then when I saw him kind of dig, I felt pretty good that he was going to get there.”
Rivers, 31, completed 35 of 42 passes for 401 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His 83.3 percent completion percentage was the highest in NFL history for a 400-yard passing game. In four games, Rivers has thrown for 1,199 yards and 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions, completing 74 percent of his passes.
His touchdown to Gates was the 200th of his career; Rivers became the 34th player in NFL history with 200 touchdown strikes.
“I certainly feel in sync,” Rivers said about his play in the month of September. “I feel the rhythm. I feel comfortable in the pocket. I feel comfortable with the offense, and the way we’re operating. You’ve got to keep going play-to-play, because that can change in one interception for a touchdown. Then can change in one play, so you’ve got to stick with it.”
Gates, 33, notched his 21st 100-yard receiving game. Gates totaled 10 catches for 136 yards, passing Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome (662 catches) for the fourth-most receptions by a tight end in NFL history.
Gates now leads the Chargers with 25 receptions for 364 yards and two touchdown catches.
Despite their age, both Gates and Rivers believe they can still play at a high level on a consistent basis.
“At the end of the day it’s about my preparation to help us win football games,” Gates said. “If I can do those things and give it 100 percent, I’ll feel good about it every single Sunday.”
Added Rivers about Gates: “When you get him matched up, I’m not sure if he’s ever covered. He’s still playing at a super-high level.”
Part of the reason for San Diego’s resurgence on offense has been the team’s reliance on an up-tempo offense, including at times no-huddle. The result was positive for the Chargers on Sunday, as they ran 70 plays, racking up 506 yards of total offense.
“When you go no-huddle, the quarterback gets a lot of credit,” Rivers said. “But it takes all 11 guys to go. The center, the linemen knowing what we’re getting to. And the receiver knowing where they are on the field -- it takes all of us. It by no means is just me out there running everything. Certainly I have a hand in it, but it’s 11 guys being on the same page.”
Added San Diego coach Mike McCoy: “It’s a great way to play the game. But it’s going back to how we think the best way is to play the game, week in and week out. We’ve said from Day 1 that we’re going to change from week-to-week. That’s the way we’re going to do it.”