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.”