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Week 1 vs. CHI
Receiving: 9 / 107 / 1 on 12 targets
The Bears had very little defense for Gates. Despite being targeted on nearly half of the team's receptions, the Bears almost seemed to lose track of where he was at times. It wasn't as if he was making spectacular catch after spectacular catch. The vast majority of his receptions were open slants and crosses over the middle where he not only made the catch but also had some room to run after the catch. He had a big third down conversion reception in the third quarter, and it came as no surprise because at the time he was really the only reliable option on offense for San Diego (Tomlinson included). The touchdown reception was a designed halfback rollout pass from Tomlinson to Gates, and it was executed to perfection by both players. Gates went over 100 yards early in the fourth quarter before San Diego kind of put the clamps on its own offense and grinded it out.
Week 2 vs. NE
Receiving: 7 / 77 / 1 on 8 targets
Gates was the lone bright spot for the Chargers, catching seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. Without much help from the wide receivers, however, he couldn't do it alone.
Week 3 vs. GB
Receiving: 11 / 113 / 0 on 13 targets
Early on, it looked like it might be a quick exit for Gates. On his first reception, he was hit awkwardly and came up grimacing and shaking his hand. On the sideline, he appeared to be in pain while trying to squeeze the trainer's hand, and he looked thoroughly uncomfortable while playing catch. But he simply had his right hand wrapped heavily, came back out on the field, and absolutely dominated. He was unstoppable, catching passes in the slot, over the middle, on the sidelines. At one point, Rivers threw five passes in a row to Gates and nine of eleven passes overall. Astoundingly, Gates caught his first nine targets of the game as the Packers had absolutely no answers for him. While he only had two second half receptions, each was a spectacular grab that demonstrated his incredible athleticism. One was a shoestring grab on an out route, and the second was even better as he reached down and in front of the defender to haul in a key third down reception. In other words, feel free to continue using Gates as your starting tight end without hesitation.
Week 4 vs. KC
Receiving: 6 / 79 / 0 on 10 targets
Gates started with a bang, hauling in a 27 yard pass on his first target of the game. Unfortunately for him, that was by far his biggest play of the game. It's not that the team didn't look for him; it was just that the team didn't look for him regularly. He went long stretches of time between seeing the ball thrown his way, and despite his solid receiving totals the Chiefs actually did a very good job in containing him for the most part.
Week 5 vs. DEN
Receiving: 7 / 113 / 1 on 7 targets
Through five games, Gates is on pace to shatter records for the tight end position. At times, it simply appears as if he's uncoverable. After LaDainian Tomlinson's record breaking season a year ago, teams are making a concerted effort to ensure that Tomlinson won't be the one to beat them. In order to do that, they are committing an extra linebacker or two to the running game, which is allowing Gates to roam free back and forth across the field all game long. Most of his receptions came on crosses over the middle, and that was both before AND after CB Champ Bailey left with an injury. Gates scored on a TE screen on the opening drive of the third quarter. The play was a great individual effort by Gates, who shook off one would-be tackler at the five yard line before diving in past two more at the goal line. Gates had very nearly scored earlier in the game, but was tackled down at the two yard line on a pass from Philip Rivers. Rivers scored on the next play.
Week 6 vs. OAK
Receiving: 3 / 58 / 0 on 4 targets
For the first time all season, Gates didn't reward his owners with a monster game. But if 58 yards is considered an off game, I'm sure his owners will sign up for that. He was thrown to once in the end zone on a fade pass, but he had a defender all over him that broke up the pass at the last moment. Gates' big play came early in the second half. While being defended by Michael Huff, Gates screened off the defender on a simple out route, spun, and turned it upfield for a big 28 yard gain. While Gates wasn't as heavily involved in the passing game as in recent weeks, that doesn't mean he didn't play a role. On one particular play, he lined up in the backfield as a fullback and sprung a key block that allowed Tomlinson to pick up about five to eight extra yards.
Week 8 vs. HOU
Receiving: 3 / 92 / 2 on 3 targets
Gates was only thrown to three times all game long, but he made them all count. His first catch of the game was simply a situation of blown coverage by Houston. Gates ran a simple in route down the seam and somehow everyone on the Texans defense forgot to account for him. The pass from Rivers was actually a duck, wobbling in the air the entire time as Gates had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for the pass to finally drop out of the sky. But when it did, he was so far beyond the defense that he still scored easily. His second reception took a little more work, as he quickly cut to the inside on a slant to lose the first defender. He then juked at the one yard line (perhaps unnecessarily) before lunging in at the last second and barely putting the football over the goal line for the score. The only reason he had 92 yards is because the Chargers didn't need to throw it very often. It seemed as if Gates could have gotten as many yards as he wanted to out there.
Week 9 vs. MIN
Receiving: 1 / 10 / 0 on 6 targets
Gates was thrown to until late in the second quarter, and didn't record his first reception until late in the third quarter. The Vikings did a terrific job of getting pressure up the middle on Philip Rivers, which in turn meant he couldn't look over the middle for his favorite target. The lack of several other weapons on offense (Malcom Floyd, Craig Davis) may have played a part as well, as more attention was paid to Gates than usual. Despite the worst stats of his career, Gates still nearly salvaged the day for fantasy owners on the last drive of the game. Though he came up short, Gates actually had his hands on a pass in the end zone. Unfortunately for him, the ball was ripped away at the last moment. On the next play, Gates got free along the back line of the end zone as Rivers floated a pass for him. But CB Cedric Griffin leapt up and batted the ball away from Gates on what would have been a sure touchdown.
Week 10 vs. IND
Receiving: 3 / 26 / 0 on 7 targets
As usual Antonio Gates was the primary receiving option for Philip Rivers, though was only targeted six times in this game. He finished with three receptions for 26 yards, all three going for first downs. Rivers looked to Gates at crucial points of the game, but never any deeper than short or intermediate passes, mostly over the middle. With the Colts gaining some momentum in the fourth quarter, Gates was targeted on a short pass over the middle which he dropped, but the ball was tipped up in the air and intercepted by Clint Session.
Week 11 vs. JAX
Receiving: 4 / 54 / 1 on 9 targets
Gates was fairly quiet for much of this game and had just three receptions for 31 yards late in the fourth quarter. But he rebounded later in the contest and salvaged his stat line with a 24 yard touchdown strike from Rivers with just over five minutes remaining in the game. He could have scored earlier on a fade pass from Rivers near the goal line, but he was jammed a bit at the line and didn't get off into his route cleanly. The pass from Rivers sailed to the far left corner of the end zone, just out of the reach of the lunging Gates (who was open, but got to the spot a bit late).
Week 12 vs. BAL
Receiving: 6 / 105 / 2 on 8 targets
Gates had a great game. He led the team in all receiving stats, and caught two wide open passes that he ran in for touchdowns. It was his best fantasy performance of the season.
Week 13 vs. KC
Receiving: 1 / -1 / 0 on 2 targets
Coming one week after perhaps his best statistical game of the season, Gates had the worst statistical game of his career. Some of it could have had something to do with the fact that San Diego opted to run the ball almost exclusively after halftime, but the fact remains that Gates was rarely seen in the passing game and wasn't a consideration once the Chargers got the lead. He was targeted deep in the end zone on a flea-flicker pass that went into double coverage and had almost no chance of being caught anyway, and that was pretty much the extent of any excitement for his day.
Week 14 vs. TEN
Receiving: 6 / 57 / 1 on 10 targets
Gates gave his owners and the Chargers quite a scare early on. He tried making a tough leaping grab near the sideline early in the second quarter, and had his leg bent upwards at the hip at a very awkward angle. The play didn't seem to injure his leg, however, as it seemingly bent his back out of shape. He was seen trying to stretch it and get it worked out on the sideline, but his return didn't look too promising. Well, not only did he return --- he flourished. Gates finished with a game high six receptions for 57 yards and the game-tying touchdown on a jump ball with just thirteen second remaining in regulation. He did appear to be moving a bit slower at times, and if he were being covered by a top safety he may not have had the success he did. Additionally, one never knows how a player will respond to an injury overnight. But for this game at least, Gates didn't allow the injury to affect his play on the field.
Week 15 vs. DET
Receiving: 1 / 8 / 0 on 4 targets
Gates, who was a game-time decision, started and looked fine as he moved around. But he was in and out of the contest on several occasions, likely due to his back still being a bit sore from the prior injury he had. He didn't catch his first pass until the second half, although he came quite a bit closer to having a productive game than it would appear. He made a nice adjustment in mid-air on a pass early in the game in the end zone. He got his hands on it, juggle it a bit, and got his hands on it again as he fell to the ground. But as he hit the turf, the ball was jarred loose for an incompletion. It would have been a very tough catch in traffic, but it was still a catch the sure-handed Gates typically makes. He later had a pass from Rivers go through his hands at the ten yard line for what would have been at least a 23 yard reception and quite possibly a 33 yard touchdown. Again, it wouldn't have been an easy catch - but it was certainly a play that one would expect a healthy Gates to make.
Week 16 vs. DEN
Receiving: 1 / 24 / 0 on 3 targets
Gates continued his curiously quiet second half of the season with just one catch on three targets. It wasn't just that Philip Rivers didn't make very many good passes to Gates; it's that Gates was rarely open. He dropped the first ball thrown his way, a very catchable pass along the sideline (and a pass that Gates hauls in 99 times out of 100). Although he did somewhat make up for the drop later on when he hauled in one of the prettiest one-handed grabs you're going to see along the right sideline.
Week 17 vs. OAK
Receiving: 6 / 62 / 0 on 11 targets
Gates turned in a solid performance on a day when it almost seemed as if the Chargers were forcing him the football to get him going a little bit. Gates hasn't had a big game since injuring his back several weeks ago, and it was important that the Chargers got him going a little bit before the playoffs began. The end result was a decent five catch performance, but it could have been so much more. Gates caught a 24 yard pass down the sideline on a play that was initially ruled a reception and a push out by the defender. However, the Raiders challenged whether Gates had maintained possession all the way to the ground, and replays confirmed that the ball came loose. The play was overturned, costing Gates a big gain. Late in the contest, QB Billy Volek sent a floater to Gates in the corner of the end zone for a jump ball. It was a play that a healthy Gates typically makes, but he couldn't establish good enough positioning to come down with the pass, and it fell harmlessly incomplete. He did show tremendous athleticism on a one-handed snag over the middle early in the third quarter, which showed that he isn't entirely void of the occasional highlight these days. But the Chargers are going to need much bigger performances from him in the coming weeks if they hope to make it through the gauntlet that is the AFC playoffs.
Week 18 vs. TEN
Receiving: 2 / 15 / 0 on 2 targets
After a short pass in the flat resulted in Gates slipping to the turf for a one yard loss, he attempted to get to his feet and advance the ball. Planting his feet into the turf, he was hit up high by the defender and had his foot/toe bent backward at an awkward angle despite his cleats remaining planted in the ground. He was helped off the field and eventually carted to the locker room with what was termed a sprained toe, though in the postgame press conference HC Norv Turner indicated that there is a possibility that it's more serious than that. Obviously, Gates did not return to the game and even more telling is the fact that he didn't return to the sideline. We'll keep you updated throughout the week on his status, and he is officially considered questionable to play against the Colts.
Week 19 vs. IND
Receiving: 2 / 28 / 0 on 3 targets
All week, all the signs pointed to Gates not being healthy enough to suit up for this game. He had dislocated the big toe on his left foot, and it wasn't revealed until the morning of the game that he would be able to go. He wasn't heavily involved in the offense, catching just two passes. But his mere presence underneath helped open up the outside passing lanes for the likes of Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson. On one deep ball down the sideline, Gates looked very awkward trying to catch up to, and then lunge for, the football at the last moment. With another week to get healthy, Gates should be at least somewhat more involved in next week's conference title game.
Week 20 vs. NE
Gates, dealing with a dislocated toe suffered two weeks ago, tried to give it a go and made it through the game, but he was in and out during much of the afternoon. He clearly wasn't 100% and reports prior to the game were that he was actually in worse physical condition than last week (when he wasn't even expected to suit up). He was thrown to once in the end zone but was mostly a non-factor as the Chargers opted to throw to the wide receivers more often.