CARSON, Calif. – Josh Rosen, this is what NFL quarterbacking is supposed to look like.
The Cardinals' rookie is learning on the job, and the way he began Sunday's game just minutes from where he grew up showed he has picked up some things. The rest of the game, however, belonged to Chargers veteran QB Philip Rivers, and the result turned ugly for the Cardinals.
Rivers completed his first 25 passes, a NFL-record for a single game and tying the NFL mark for consecutive completions, period, and then sat out the fourth quarter of a 45-10 Cardinals' loss at the StubHub Center.
Rosen went up to Rivers after the game and said, "Bro, that was crazy."
"That's why he is who he is," Rosen said later.
And who the Cardinals need Rosen to be, especially if they want a chance to take steps forward, if not this season, but next. Progress right now seems hard to come by, after a game in which missed tackles and the same offensive problems were featured as much as Rivers' accuracy.
"I don't think those guys quit," coach Steve Wilks said of his team. "I'm not even going to stand up here and say those guys quit. Those guys finished. Do we have to play better? Of course we do."
The Cardinals (2-9) certainly had no hangover from their bad loss to the Raiders last week. Rosen took them on a 76-yard opening drive, completing all four of his passes – the last 25 yards to Larry Fitzgerald for a touchdown – to get a lead. The defense stoned the Chargers (8-3) on three plays. Christian Kirk broke off a 26-yard punt return, leading to a Phil Dawson field goal.
It was 10-0. The Cardinals looked good. Then it fell apart.
Rivers directed a touchdown drive. Then the Cardinals forced Rivers into a rare mistake -- a lost fumble on a sack by defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, giving the Cards the ball at the Los Angeles 35. But the offense went nowhere, and Dawson pulled a 46-yard field-goal try left.
"Sometimes, those can be deflating," Wilks said.
"You have to score off turnovers," Rosen added. "That kind of speaks for itself."
The Chargers, with Rivers dicing up the Cardinals' defense, scored 28 points total in the second quarter, essentially salting the game away by halftime. The Cardinals couldn't do anything to sway momentum, unable to stop the Chargers and unable to move the ball. In the second and third quarters, the Chargers held a 24-2 edge in first downs. The Cardinals gained a total of 19 yards on 16 offensive plays.
Rivers finished the game 28-of-29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and didn't play a down in the fourth quarter. He tied Miami's Ryan Tannehill's 2015 mark of 25 straight completions, although Tannehill did it over two games.
"He played a tremendous game," defensive end Chandler Jones said. "He took his time, operating that offense. He was picking us apart with those little short passes, those dink passes, and it hurt us. And we missed some tackles on those short passes."
The StubHub crowd, announced as a sellout with a mere 25,343 in the small venue, still managed to make noise as Rivers weaved his way somewhat effortlessly in the middle quarters.
"It was an efficient day, to say the least," Rivers said. "There were so many guys today who were making the catches, the guys protecting. A lot goes into completing the ball, more than just me throwing it."
The Cardinals did make a move in the secondary during the game, with Bené Benwikere being benched in favor of newcomer David Amerson.
"It's somewhat of a revolving door," Wilks said. "Someone has to step up. … We've got to continue to try and figure out who is opposite of Patrick (Peterson)."
Because the score got sideways, David Johnson's work was limited, finishing with 63 yards rushing on 17 carries and another two catches for 16 yards. After Fitzgerald's touchdown, he was targeted just one other time, a five-yard screen pass on the Cardinals' final offensive play of the game.
After 79 yards passing in the first quarter, Rosen finished 12-of-19 for 105 yards, throwing a bad interception on the first play the Cardinals ran after falling behind for the first time.
Yes, for a guy who lived so close, who had trained for tennis on courts next door to the stadium and won a state championship in high school on the same field, Rosen was hoping for a different result. So were all of the Cardinals.
"I had better memories (here) than today," Rosen said. "We'll keep moving forward."
Images from the Week 12 matchup at the StubHub Center