Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: ‘He picked us apart’

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers rarely aired it out against the Falcons because he didn’t have to. Rivers and his fleet of capable backs, receivers and tight ends did most of their damage with short routes in the 33-30 overtime victory.

Crosses, hooks, wheel routes, simple dump offs — Chargers targets caught short passes and gave the Falcons fits trying to chase them down. Falcons defenders said they weren’t surprised at San Diego’s passing strategy but cornerback Desmond Trufant said they didn’t trust their plan to counter it.

“Stuff where we know how teams are going to attack us, I think that’s where we have got get better at as a defense,” Trufant said. “When we know something is coming and we know teams are going to run that from the film study and what the coaches tell us, we’ve got to believe it and stop it and have them beat us with something else. But we will bounce back.”

Rivers was 27 of 44 for 371 yards and a touchdown. He had just three completions of more than 20 yards, and only two of those passes traveled more than 20 yards in the air.

“We knew what to expect coming into the game,” Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell said. “We just had to execute our job and we didn’t do it well enough. He picked us apart. That’s basically what happened.”

The Chargers went to short passes several times when they needed to get out of bad down-and-distance situations and keep alive drives. The Chargers did it four times on the TD drive that trimmed their deficit to 30-27 in the fourth quarter.

On third-and-5, Rivers hit Travis Benjamin on a shallow crossing route with Falcons safety Ricardo Allen trailing. Rivers found tight end Antonio Gates just short of the first-down marker on third-and-11 and Gates surged past it for 13 yards.

Rivers dumped off to Gordon in the right flat for 14 yards on second-and-16 to set up a short gain for a first down. He found Tyrell Williams on a quick slant inside of cornerback Robert Alford for a 10-yard gain on third-and-10 that set up a first-and-goal at the 5 and then passed to Gordon on the next play for a TD.

Rivers did it again on the game-tying drive. The Chargers faced a fourth-and-2 when Gates, lined up in the right slot, quickly cut inside linebacker Deion Jones for a 3-yard catch.

“Kudos to them,” Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael said. “We were playing against a good-caliber quarterback in Phillip Rivers. He runs that offense. He makes checks, he sees the weakness in defenses and operates it. When you go against a good quarterback things like that happen.”