Antonio Gates has authored one of the finest careers in NFL history.
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The San Diego Chargers jerseys walked out of Qualcomm victorious on Friday after beating the Arizona Cardinals 19-3. The defense shined on the night with two interceptions, a TD and one sack.
Offense: Dom Williams – Williams has shown flashes throughout camp and shined against the Cardinals. The 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver finished with a game-high four receptions for 55-yards. His longest catch came on third down in Arizona territory and was good for 18 yards. The reception ultimately proved beneficial for the Bolts as it sustained a drive that ended in three points as Head Coach Mike McCoy praised his play after the game.
Defense: Brandon Flowers – Flowers returned to form on Friday night making an athletic interception and taking it to the house. The cornerback spoke throughout training camp about how he mentally and physically feels rejuvenated, and it showed. His 25-yard pick six was the only touchdown on the night and kick started a fierceness for the first-team defense that only gave up three first downs.
Unsung Hero: Josh Lambo – Besides Flowers’ pick six, the other 13 points came courtesy of Josh Lambo. Besides his extra point, Lambo booted four field goals on the night good for 20, 33, 48 and 50-yards.
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Head Coach Mike McCoy made it crystal clear when addressing the team regarding Joey Bosa’s absence.
Someone has to take advantage of the additional reps now that they’re for the taking.
“We are going to have that next man up mentality here,” Head Coach Mike McCoy said. “You’ve got to keep on rolling. It’s an opportunity for somebody to step up. I talked to the team the other day when they all reported about it. Joey is not here, but we are going to go out there every day and work extremely hard. Somebody has got to step into his spot and make the most of it. And with 90 guys, we are going to have to trim the roster at some point so you have got to make the most of every single opportunity because when he gets back, someone’s reps are going to get cut back. It is an important couple of days for some younger players to step in and do their job.”
That player on Saturday was Darius Philon, who lined up as the team’s starting defensive end next to Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane. It was only one practice, but last year’s sixth rounder picked up where he left off after an impressive offseason.
“(I’m) very pleased with the way he has worked,” McCoy said. “We really liked him last year. Unfortunately he had a very unique injury you don’t see very often last year. After he had his little surgery last year he said, ‘I’m ready to go’ and I looked at him and kind of smiled and said, ‘C’mon, you can’t play with what you got right now.’ As soon as he came out on the first day of practice, he said he’s ready to go…That’s always been his mentality and attitude. He had a nice offseason for us and we are really pleased with him.”
Philon’s rookie year experience enhanced his drive to seize every moment. He appeared prime to be a major contributor after a preseason in which he tallied seven tackles and one sack in limited action. However, a freak hip injury suffered in practice sidelined him all the way until December as the team placed him on Reserved-Injured; Designated to Return.
As a result, he’s determined to take advantage of the increased playing time.
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“I embrace every moment like it’s my last,” he said. “Out there with the starters, I play like every rep is my last. I have a chance to go out there and work with the ones, so I’ve got to get better. That’s good for me, but at the same time, I look forward to helping the team out in any way possible. I can only focus on what I need to do and how I go about business for myself. I can’t worry about what is going on around me. My number one goal is being consistent on and off the field. A lot of these reps with the ones help.”
Through 14 seasons, Antonio Gates has authored one of the finest careers in NFL history.
Currently tied with Tony Gonzalez for the most touchdown catches ever by a tight end with 111, he chuckles when thinking how his career-defining moment will occur in Los Angeles. Gates realizes it is a moment that can galvanize a fan base, providing a unique memory in the team’s first season in L.A.
“It’s funny,” he says, taking a deep breath. “All my memories were in San Diego, but probably the biggest moment of my career will be in L.A. I hope Los Angeles embraces that and gives us the opportunity to prove we are a good football team. At the same time, I have so many memories in San Diego that I just really want to thank all the fans (there) who have supported me and supported this team over the years. Hopefully, you will continue to do that going to L.A.”
Gates’ record-breaking touchdown figures to be a defining moment of the Bolts’ first season in Los Angeles. However, he believes it will be just the tipping point in what can be a special season for the team.