SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers used an old, familiar combo — Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates — to upset the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
Gates had three touchdown catches, including a spectacular, one-handed grab, and the Chargers controlled the tempo to keep Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch off the field to beat the Seahawks 30-21 victory Sunday.
The 34-year-old Gates scored on catches of 8, 8 and 21 yards.
The 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 he’d made the catch that gave San Diego a 27-14 lead late in the third quarter.
The three touchdown receptions tied Gates’ career high. Rivers was 28 of 37 for 284 yards.
Seattle was efficient when it had the ball, but it just didn’t have it enough as the Chargers dominated time of possession on a steamy afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
San Diego (1-1) had blown an 11-point, fourth-quarter lead and lost its opener Monday night at Arizona. Seattle (1-1) had nine days to prepare after an impressive 20-point opening victory against Green Bay.
After Gates’ third scoring catch, Wilson moved the Seahawks 70 yards, capping the drive with a 14-yard touchdown throw to Marshawn 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.
San Diego used long drives all day to control play and wear out Seattle’s vaunted defense.
Percy Harvin gave the Chargers a big gift when he fumbled the kickoff at the 28 after Novak’s 43-yard field goal gave the Chargers a 13-7 lead with 4:40 to go before halftime.
After consecutive 10-yard penalties gave the Chargers a first-and-goal from the 23, Rivers completed a 15-yard screen pass to Eddie Royal before evading pressure and hitting Gates for their second scoring hookup of the quarter.
Wilson wasted no time in leading the Seahawks 61 yards in five plays, hitting Robert Turbin on a 3-yard TD pass to pull to 20-14. Turbin also had a 32-yard catch and a 10-yard run on the drive.
San Diego running back Ryan Mathews was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury early in the fourth quarter.
Rivers hit Gates on an 8-yard TD pass early in the second quarter.
Dwight Freeney sacked Wilson to force the Seahawks to punt on their first drive. Novak kicked a 50-yard field goal for San Diego.
The Seahawks came back with a three-play, 60-yard drive capped when Harvin took a pitch from Wilson, got the edge and ran 51 yards down the left sideline for a 7-3 lead. 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.
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