Statistics aren’t always an accurate measuring stick for the career of an NFL player, but what they can do is shine some light on the longevity and proficiency of a given tenure. That is certainly true in the case of quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates with the San Diego Chargers. These two have been producing for the better part of the past decade in San Diego, and the chemistry they share is pretty much incomparable across the league.
This duo has achieved several statistical milestones in their respective careers, but not many have occurred on the same day. That’s what happened in the Week 4 win over the Dallas Cowboys as Gates’ 10 catches pushed him ahead of Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for fourth all-time in receptions by a tight end. The lone touchdown hookup between Rivers and Gates was also a landmark for the quarterback as he delivered the 200th touchdown throw of his career on a 56-yard deep ball to his tight end.
While much of the duo’s success has come prior to this new regime under head coach Mike McCoy, there’s no doubt the fresh outlook has given both a bit of a jumpstart to their respective careers. What really enhanced their connection on Sunday was the no-huddle offense employed by the Bolts under McCoy. Rivers seems like a different quarterback when put in that situation, and he acknowledged as much after the game telling the team’s website:
“When we’re in that no-huddle mode and we really feel like we’ve got it going, and we feel like we’re the aggressors, it’s just taking the completion.”
That type of aggression and freedom is what was missing for the methodical and predictable offense under former coach Norv Turner. Always having to wait on the play call made things much more difficult and caused more problems than anything. A signal caller like Rivers who has been around the block a few times is more than capable of making his checks at the line and getting the team in the right formation and play call to succeed. Trying to micromanage him is merely superfluous and often times cause more problems than benefits.
What really stood out from the game on Sunday was the way Rivers bounced back from yet another pick-six courtesy of Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee. Following that play the quarterback was tremendous in leading his team back from a double-digit deficit to get a critical win and keep these Bolts in the hunt for a playoff spot at the season’s quarter pole. Rivers addressed this as well with his success in the no-huddle comeback effort saying:
“I feel in sync. I have a rhythm and I’m comfortable in the pocket when we get that no-huddle going. It’s big being 2-2 instead of 1-3. I know we’ve been there before but it’s tough to dig yourself out of 1-3, especially when you’re playing with young guys and guys you didn’t expect to be in there. They can gain confidence off games like this.”
Even though the Bolts are looking up at two 4-0 teams in the upstart Kansas City Chiefs and the juggernaut Denver Broncos in the AFC West, there is still plenty of season to go. Anything can happen from here to the playoffs, and the Chargers seem poised to show that their best football is still ahead of them. Look for this team to continue excelling under McCoy’s new scheme with Rivers and Gates sure to spearhead the effort along the way.