Editor’s note: This is the first part in a series that spotlights three Chargers-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at O.co Coliseum
Chargers TE Antonio Gates vs. Raiders WLB Sio Moore
Tale of the tape:
Gates (85): 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, 12th season, Kent State
Moore (55): 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, second season, Connecticut
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates should be on the downside of his illustrious career by now. The man is, after all, 34 years old with a painful injury history in recent years. While he certainly isn’t as spry or agile as he once was, Gates has still got it.
His connection with quarterback Philip Rivers remains strong, and he can still get open despite tight coverage. He has 21 receptions for 275 yards and five touchdowns already this season and is a major part of the Chargers’ prolific attack.
The key is covering him well without leaving other holes in coverage. That’s mandatory considering the weapons at Rivers’ disposal. That means Sio Moore will must operate well in coverage during his first game back from an ankle injury. He’s athletic enough to hang with Gates on short routes, though he’ll surely have some safety help from Usama Young if Gates goes deep.
The key is playing well when a pass is headed towards him. Gates has an innate ability to make big plays when he’s not open, and Moore has to shut those options down. He’s just returning from injury, but he should be at full strength by game time. That’s important when dealing with a crafty veteran like Gates still playing well after all these years.
“He was a matchup problem when he came into the league and he’s a matchup problem now,” Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “We’ll address it as best we can. They have a lot of weapons, but Antonio remains a real problem in the red zone and on third down. He’s made a lot of big plays and he’s someone you have to pay a lot of attention to.”