Ravens trying to contain Chargers' Gates

OWINGS MILLS -- Two seasons ago, the Baltimore Ravens' defense was exploited for two touchdown catches by San Diego Chargers All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates. On each sequence during a 32-14 victory over the Ravens in San Diego, Gates simply used his athleticism and route-running capabilities to burst into the secondary and separated from the Ravens' cove rage.

Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis was beaten in single-coverage on one of Gates' touchdowns in that game.

Now, the Ravens are looking to change the results in this critical matchup on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

"That's a tremendous weapon for them," Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington said. "He's the best, if not one of the two or three best tight ends in the league. He's dangerous. He can score from anywhere on the field. We have to be aware and account for him at all times."

The former Kent State power forward has caught 405 career passes for 5,149 yards and 51 touchdowns. During the Chargers' opening-game win over the Oakland Raiders, Gates caught five passes for 83 yards.

Only wide receivers Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have caught more touchdown passes since 2004 than Gates. The five-time Pro Bowl selection also holds the single-season touchdown catch record for tight ends with 13.

The timing between Gates and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is impeccable.

"I think they're real close," Lewis said. "On the football field, you can tell their relationship that they kind of know each other, where the routes are going to be and things like that. So, our job is to make sure we don't let him settle in the pocket, don't let him get into their routes without being physical."

Defending Gates is a matter of jamming him at the line of scrimmage and not allowing him to get a clean release into his pass routes.

He's particularly dangerous in the red zone.

"He's one of the premier tight ends in the league, so we need to focus on a guy like that," said strong safety Dawan Landry, who will draw the primary assignment of guarding Gates. "He gets into his patterns, he uses his body well and he's a big basketball type of guy.

"You have to play him just like he's a receiver. We have to play our keys and read Rivers to get him stopped."

INJURY UPDATE: Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (concussion, chest) returned to practice after missing Wednesday's workout, and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison predicted that he will play against San Diego.

"In fact, he's really 100 percent," said Mattison, indicating that Suggs' injury isn't a concussion. "He's just got a little soreness in his stomach, in his rib area. He's fine."

Safety Tom Zbikowski didn't practice for the second consecutive day due to a concussion while free safety Ed Reed was limited for the second day in a row with a concussion.

Mattison predicted that Zbikowski will play.

Reed's outlook is encouraging, too.

"Reed is fine," Mattison said. "Somebody might have said that he wasn't supposed to go. The next thing, I looked out there and he was intercepting passes, running all over."

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