Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and left guard Kris Dielman were voted by the NFL coaches, players and fans to the AFC Pro Bowl squad, the NFL announced Tuesday. Gates and Dielman were selected as starters. The 2011 Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 30 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Rivers, Gates and Dielman are all part of an offense that’s ranked second in the NFL in total offense at 392.1 yards per game and fourth in scoring at 27.2 points per game.
Gates made his seventh-consecutive Pro Bowl despite missing five games with a torn right plantar fascia that occurred during a Week 6 game at St. Louis and left him with acute pain for the remainder of the season. He appeared poised for a second consecutive 1,000-yard season before the injury and was on pace to break his own NFL record for touchdowns by a tight end. Through Week 7, he caught 35 passes for 540 yards and eight touchdowns, and he will finish the season with 50 catches and a team-high 782 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Rivers, making his third Pro Bowl in four seasons as starting quarterback, should record a passer rating of more than 100 for a third-consecutive season. Despite missing his top four receivers and starting tight end at one point, Rivers broke Dan Fouts’ NFL record for passing yards through the first eight games of the season and has a chance to make the top 10 in league history for single-season passing yards. His 4,397 passing yards through 15 games are a career high. Rivers also is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt and has thrown 30 touchdown passes.
Dielman made his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl and is on track to play in 15 games for the Bolts, which he’s done every season since 2004. Known as an aggressive and physical run blocker, Dielman’s consistent performance in pass protection played an important role in the Chargers’ offensive success this season. He also provided a veteran presence alongside Brandyn Dombrowski, a young player who started the first five games at left tackle before Marcus McNeill signed his one-year contract and returned Week 6. Led by the strong left side, the offensive line has allowed Rivers to be sacked just 13 times in the last nine games. The Chargers’ three running backs also are averaging 4.2 yards per carry, up from 3.6 last season.
McNeill (2nd), Antonio Garay (3rd) and Shaun Phillips (3rd) were selected as alternates.
McNeill is a Pro Bowl alternate for the fourth consecutive season despite missing the first five games.
Garay is an alternate for the first time in his career after returning to the field late last season from a horrific leg injury he suffered Dec. 6, 2007. He emerged from a crowded competition to claim the starting nose tackle position out of training camp, a crucial role in Ron Rivera’s 3-4 defense. Nose tackle isn’t a position that generates many defensive stats, but Garay’s play has helped slice the production of opposing running backs by nearly a yard per carry from last season and limit opposing running games to 90.3 rushing yards per game. Garay also has 57 tackles, five sacks and 13 quarterback hits, deploying his athleticism to collapse the middle of the opposing offensive line.