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SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 14: Tight End Antonio Gates #85 and Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers walk through the tunnel prior to their game against the Oakland Raiders on October 14, 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Antonio Gates;Philip Rivers
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates aren't talking much these days -- that's because they don't need to.
During practices or games, they may discuss an occasional route or coverage scheme, but even when they do, little between the Pro Bowlers is spoken.
“We're very much on the same page,” Rivers said. “We don't have to say a whole lot. We know all our efforts, intentions and those things are all there. If we do miss, or if I didn't go to him and I wanted to check to see what the coverage was or something like that, he can give me the good or bad, yes or no. We don't have to have a long conversation.”
Sometimes, less is more.
Rivers to Gates has been among the most prolific connections in the league. Gates leads all tight ends in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Among all receivers, he ranks first with six touchdowns, fourth with 386 yards and 11th with 24 catches.
Rivers said their closeness is nothing new. Over the years, he has developed a chemistry with Gates, who was in his second year when Rivers was drafted in 2004.
"He and I are pretty tight," Rivers said. "Over the seven years on the field, in the locker room and off the field, we've gotten to know each other pretty well. I think that helps when it comes to the quarterback-receiver-route running relationship. ...It certainly helps with the confidence and all that trust when you're getting ready to pull the trigger."
With last year's No. 1 wideout Vincent Jackson refusing to sign his restricted tender, Rivers has looked Gates' way more frequently.
Gates has a team-high 33 targets through four weeks, putting him on pace for 132. That would be 19 more than the 113 looks he saw in 2009 when he had a career-high 1157 receiving yards.
His tacit relationship with his quarterback makes those targets count.
“I kind of see (the game) the way he sees it,” Gates said. “It's one of those nonverbal communications that we have on the field. It just feels so natural. When I do something, he's hoping and trusting that I'm going to do exactly that. We're not saying nothing verbally, but he understands ...what factors in when you want to get open as a receiver.”