By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn FOXBORO When you're as big as Antonio Gates, every week you expect to get your share of attention.
If you didn't know better, you would have thought the San Diego Chargers tight end was traded to the New England Patriots the way he was draped all game by Patriots jerseys.
While San Diego racked up 470 yards of total offense against New England, not a single yard was gained by Gates as the Patriots pulled away for a 35-21 win.
"They made it difficult for me to get off the ball," said Gates, who had zero catches and just one ball thrown his way all game. "They made it difficult for me to make a play on a ball. Every time I looked around, there were two guys around me. They had a game plan. They wanted to take me out of the game, and that's exactly what they did."
The Patriots used a number of players to defend Gates, including defensive back Sergio Brown, whose interception came in the third quarter while he was defending Gates.
"We hit him as much as we could because we knew we couldn't let him get started on his routes," Brown said. "Because as he builds up speed, he runs better routes as he gets up the field. So we try to get him as close to the line of scrimmage as possible."
Gates added, "They did a wonderful job re-routing me. You can't say enough about their game plan."
San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers is known for spreading the ball around, particularly to his tight end and his running backs.
In San Diego's 24-17 Week 1 win over Minnesota, Rivers connected with eight different receivers. His top three targets? Running back Mike Tolbert (9 catches, 58 yards), Gates (8 catches, 74 yards) and running back Ryan Mathews (3 catches, 73 yards).
Despite shutting Gates out completely, Pats coach Bill Belichick said the game plan was to simply "compete against him."
Belichick added, "The guys that covered Gates, Patrick Chung, Sergio -- the linebackers tried to jam them. We tried to make it hard for them, but you just try to compete against him. You can't really stop him."
The attention given to Gates opened things up for Vincent Jackson, who had 10 catches for 172 yards -- both career highs.
Gates said there wasn't really anything the Patriots did that totally caught him off-guard other than the steady dose of attention they paid to him from the opening kick-off until the game ended.
"I felt they were going to make it hard for me to release," Gates said. "But they did that, and more. They made it difficult for me to get off the ball. They made it difficult for me to make a play on a ball. Every time I looked around, there were two guys around me. They had a game plan."
Gates added, "I thought I would still have opportunities to make a play. I tried to stay patient, but they had a terrific game plan."