Gates' presence was felt from the jump, as Rivers hit his long-time target with the first pass of the game. Gates snagged three passes on the first drive, including the opening touchdown, the 100th of his career.
"He started off hot and kept it rolling," Rivers said of the tight end, to whom he's thrown 74 TDs. "He was a big contributor."
Gates finished with nine catches on 11 targets for 92 yards and two touchdowns, all team highs. Those numbers came despite playing just 56.6 percent of the snaps.
"I've never had any expectations in terms of what I was going to do going into the game," Gates said, via the San Diego Union-Tribune. "All I wanted to do was contribute and I was able to do as much as I could when the opportunities presented themselves."
Gates, 35, became just the second tight end in NFL history -- and the ninth overall -- to catch more than 100 touchdown passes (Tony Gonzalez, 111). The 74 touchdowns places Gates/Rivers as the fifth-most prolific scoring duo in NFL history. Gates also passed Shannon Sharpe for third all-time in tight end receiving yards (Gonzalez, Jason Witten).
Down a receiving target and with a crumbling offensive line, Rivers relied on his long-time partner as a security blanket in big spots. They couldn't combine for the win, but there is no doubt with Gates back on the field, the Chargers' offense just got more dangerous.