SAN DIEGO — Dante Rosario looks right at home in Qualcomm Stadium’s end zones.
Four years ago, Rosario caught a game-winning touchdown pass as time expired to lift Carolina over the San Diego Chargers.
On Sunday, the tight end made the most of Antonio Gates’ absence by catching three TD passes for the first time in his NFL career to help the Chargers beat the Tennessee Titans for the ninth straight time, 38-10.
“He likes catching touchdowns here,” said Philip Rivers, who threw scoring passes of 11 and 4 yards to Rosario on the first two possessions by the Chargers (2-0) and then hit the wide-open tight end on a 15-yarder in the third quarter.
“I thought he was phenomenal. He went out and did what was asked of him,” said Gates, who was a game-time scratch due to a rib injury sustained in the season-opening win at Oakland on Monday night.
“He just tore it up today. Things happen in mysterious ways, man. It might have been meant for Dante to have this game. I’m very happy for him.”
Half of Rosario’s eight career TD catches have been at Qualcomm Stadium.
“This ranks higher because I’m a Charger,” Rosario said when asked to compare Sunday’s game with the one in 2008 when his scoring catch beat San Diego.
“I always prepare like it’s going to be a big week but Gates was kind of a last-second decision, so it wasn’t a sure thing that I was going to take the number of reps that I did today.”
The Titans (0-2) didn’t double-cover Rosario like teams often do to Gates.
“When you have a quarterback like Rivers who is very good, he makes guys look good,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “He puts the ball where it’s supposed to be. Believe me, there was not a letdown when we knew Gates wasn’t playing. We knew they still had some great weapons and we saw that again today.”
Rosario praised Rivers.
“All of those passes were in places where the defender couldn’t get it,” he said.
Another backup, running back Jackie Battle, had two 1-yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. With Ryan Mathews still not back from a broken collarbone, Battle saw extensive duty.
San Diego’s defense had a big day, too, by harassing Jake Locker and stuffing Chris Johnson.
Before the game, the Chargers (2-0) retired Junior Seau’s No. 55. Seau, the hard-hitting, first-pumping leader of the Chargers for 13 seasons, committed suicide May 2.
San Diego’s winning streak against the Titans (0-2) dates to 1993, when the franchise was still the Houston Oilers.
Rivers was 24 of 32 for 284 yards. Malcom Floyd had six catches for 109 yards and Rosario four catches for 48 yards.
It was a rough day all around for the Titans, who were held to 212 yards of total offense.
“We didn’t look like an NFL team,” said Chris Johnson, who had only 17 yards on eight carries. He was coming off a career-low 4 yards on 11 carries in a 34-13 loss to New England.
“I really don’t know what’s going on,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how we’re going to fix it or whatever. Can’t get the running game going, can’t get no yards no matter what we do. I don’t know at this point.”
Locker was 15 of 30 for 174 yards.
“No one wants to start 0-2,” Locker said. “It’s not the way you envisioned it going. ... I wasn’t able to move the ball consistently. Whatever’s not working for us, we have to figure it out and work hard to overcome it.”
San Diego moved 71 yards on its first possession and appeared to score on a 7-yard pass from Rivers to Floyd. Floyd was so sure it was a score that he started to slam the ball over the crossbar before noticing the official called it incomplete. Coach Norv Turner challenged, but the call was upheld. After Curtis Brinkley was thrown for a 4-yard loss, Rivers found Rosario for an 11-yard TD.
The Titans were awful early. On their third play from scrimmage, Locker was hit by Shawn Phillips and threw a wobbly pass that was intercepted by Eric Weddle, giving the Chargers the ball on the Titans 31.
Six plays later, Rosario caught his second TD pass from Rivers for a 14-0 lead.
On the Titans’ next possession, Locker stumbled as he was being chased by Donald Butler on third-and-9 from the Titans 12 and had to throw the ball away underhanded to avoid a sack.
Tennessee didn’t get its first first down until its third drive. The Titans finally scored on their fourth possession, settling for Rob Bironas’ 23-yard field goal after a promising drive stalled to make it 17-3. Locker scrambled for 20 yards on third-and-9 and the Titans got 15 more yards when Vaughn Martin was whistled for a late hit.
San Diego’s Nate Kaeding, who tied his career best with five field goals in an opening win against Oakland, kicked a 26-yard field goal on the Chargers’ third drive.
Rosario’s third TD catch came late in the third quarter.
Tennessee’s only touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Locker to Kendall Wright late in the third quarter to make it 24-10. The score came three plays after a 71-yard kickoff return by Lavelle Hawkins.
Notes: Rosario hurt his right calf in the second quarter and went to the locker room but later returned. ... Rivers is 6-0 in his career against the Titans, with a 100.6 passer rating. ... Titans WR Kenny Britt returned from a one-game NFL suspension for a DUI arrest and had one catch for 5 yards.