Chicago Bears: Stopping Antonio Gates Key to Beating San Diego

James KriesContributor INovember 15, 2011

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 31:  Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates a touchdown against the Tennessee Titans during the game at Qualcomm Stadium on October 31, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Titans 33-25.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears are flying high as they head into their Week 11 matchup with the San Diego Chargers. Riding a four-game winning streak, the Bears will try and extend the Chargers' four-game losing streak when the two teams meet Sunday at Soldier Field.

Although the Chargers currently have a losing record, they are the seventh-best offense in the NFL.

An area of concern for head coach Lovie Smith and the Bears will be trying to handle the Chargers' All-Pro tight end, Antonio Gates.

Hampered by injuries, Gates has had a somewhat quiet year for the Chargers. When he has played, Gates has averaged five catches per game, and almost 12 yards per reception. He has scored just two touchdowns this season.

Gates is still one of the premier tight ends in the game. He has scored no less than eight touchdowns each year since 2004.

What Gates brings to Soldier Field on Sunday is a potential matchup nightmare for the Bears.

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley scored three times against the Bears in Week 3. The Bears tried many different coverage schemes against Finley, but with no success. Along with the three scores, Finley finished the day with seven catches and 85 yards.

The Bears have also allowed three other tight ends to score this season.

With his size and great pass-catching abilities, Gates might have a big game if the Bears don't have an answer for him. If the Bears go with a Cover-2 scheme most of the day, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers and Gates might hook up often, exploiting the space the Bears' default defense can create at times.

Antonio Gates playing against the Bears in 2007
Antonio Gates playing against the Bears in 2007Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The last time the Bears played the Chargers during the regular season was in Week 1 of the 2007 season. Lovie Smith's Bears lost 14-3 as Gates caught nine passes for 107 yards, with a touchdown.

Charles Tillman will have his hands full on Sunday, likely covering the Chargers' physical wide receiver, Vincent Jackson. The job of containing Gates will most likely fall on the Bears' talented linebackers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs.

The Chargers boast the fourth best passing game in the league, and will be desperate for a win after dropping four in a row.

The key to a Bears victory will be how they contain Gates, and what adjustments they make if he finds early success against Chicago's defense Sunday.