The all-time leader in touchdown receptions among tight ends is now Antonio Gates after he broke a tie with Tony Gonzalez and grabbed the No. 1 spot for himself with a 7-yard touchdown reception against the Miami Dolphins.
Gates, 37, tied Gonzalez at 111 touchdowns each in the final game of the 2016 season, three days after announcing his intention to return for another year in 2017.
That meant the record wasn’t likely to remain tied for long. It took just two games with Gates catching a touchdown pass in Week 2 from Philip Rivers to get to 112 on his career.
The Chargers were clearly excited for Gates and dogpiled on the tight end in the end zone.
His touchdown total isn’t just an all-time mark among tight ends, it’s sixth among all pass catchers and behind only Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Cris Carter, and Marvin Harrison.
Rivers says Gates’ numbers should be even better.
“We see plays from the past years where I just missed him or he got tackled at the one. He should have 125 [touchdowns]. It’ll be exciting,” Rivers told the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier in September. “I’ve thought about it. I think it helps that we’re starting the season with just one to go. It’ll just happen.”
It’s unlikely that Gates’ record will be touched anytime soon. The next closest tight ends on the list after Gates and Gonzalez are Rob Gronkowski and Jason Witten, but they are at just 69 and 64 career touchdowns, respectively.
If Gronkowski continues on his current pace, he could threaten to top Gates in four or five seasons, but the 28-year-old tight end has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t finished a 16-game season since 2011.
The likely scenario is that the all-time mark for tight end touchdowns will belong to Gates for a long time.