Short passes were big trouble for Falcons

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford and his targets put constant pressure on the Falcons to make tackles to limit short passes to small gains on Monday night.

“They want to get some cheap yards, some yards after the catch,” Falcons linebacker Paul Worrilow said. “I think for the most part we did a good job coming down on those (and tackling).”

The Falcons were up to the task in the first half but then showed leakage in the second half, when the Eagles scored touchdowns on consecutive drives to take a lead with 8:37 to play.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews twice turned short routes into longer key gains during the six-play drive that put the Eagles ahead 24-23. He caught Bradford’s short pass in the middle of the field and sprinted for a 12-yard gain for a first down at the Falcons’ 41. Two plays later, he caught a pass on a shallow crossing route and gained 19 yards to the one-yard line to set up Ryan Matthews’ TD run.

The Eagles also turned short passes into key gains four times during their 95-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter that cut their deficit to 20-17. The final catch, Darren Sproles’ five-yard TD grab, came after Bradford surveyed other options. But the three other short catches were all by design: Matthews went 18 yards on first-and-18, DeMarco Murray had a 12-yard gain on third-and-12 and Sproles gained 12 yards on second-and-12.

That’s how it went for Falcons linebackers and defensive linemen for much of the night. Time after time they had to chase down pass catchers in front of the first-down markers and make sure tackles.

“We expected that coming in,” Worrilow said. “If he’s feeling pressure or he can’t get the stuff down the field, that ball is going to come out in front of us or in the soft spots in the zone. The emphasis is just leverage tackling and giving them good hits and making them pay when they are going to catch those easy balls.”