Gates' 3 TD catches carry Chargers to 30-21 upset

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, left, celebrates his touchdown with Ladarius Green as Seattle Seahawks strong safety Jeron Johnson looks on during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregor
Gregory Bull

SAN DIEGO (AP) 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.''

Here are some things that stood out Sunday as both teams evened their records at 1-1:

SINGLE COVERAGE: Gates got in lots of favorable matchups.

''The Legion of Boom is what I've been hearing about all week,'' Gates said. ''Obviously, they believe in their skills to cover. It was a situation where fortunately I was matched up on linebackers at times, and I was able to come away with the win, and Philip was able to put the ball basically where no other player could get it.''

Rivers has thrown 65 touchdown passes to Gates, the most in NFL history between a quarterback and a tight end.

BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME: Gates ''definitely capitalized on every opportunity he had and he showed why he is an All-Pro tight end,'' Seattle safety Kam Chancellor said.

''I hadn't seen him from the early days, but I can tell you he is a good tight end,'' Chancellor added. ''First thing is he had a good quarterback. A quarterback that looks for him that knows him. They have that bond, that quarterback-tight end bond. And he is very crafty. He is a crafty tight end.''

The three touchdown receptions tied Gates' career high. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 284 yards.

OOPS: Seattle's only lead came when Percy Harvin ran 51 yards down the left sideline to put the Seahawks up 7-3 in the first quarter.

But Harvin had stepped on the sideline during the run and the NFL said after the game the score was ''incorrectly confirmed.'' The league said the ball should have been spotted at the 21-yard line.

''That was bad. They missed that,'' Chargers defensive end Dwight Freeney said.

OLD GUYS RULE: While Gates had a huge day, Freeney, 33, sacked Wilson to force the Seahawks to punt on their first drive. That led to the first of three field goals for San Diego's Nick Novak.

''I happened to mention that to Gates. I said, `This is old-school day,' Freeney said. ''Me and him are the oldest guys on the team and we made some plays today.''

NUMBERS DON'T LIE: While Wilson and the Seahawks had some quick-strike scores, they simply didn't have the ball enough to hang in with the Chargers.

San Diego had the ball for 42 minutes, 15 seconds compared to 17:45 for Seattle, and ran 75 plays to 40 for the Seahawks. The Chargers had 26 first downs while Seattle had 14.

''They had twice as many plays as we did today,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''It was a great job by Philip and their offense. Antonio Gates was phenomenal today. They were moving it like crazy and they just kept the ball away from us.''

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Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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