A “spark” is what Steve Wilks sought late Sunday afternoon, his team’s lead having evaporated and time nearly having run out.
So the Cardinals turned to Josh Rosen for the first time.
It wasn’t a storybook finish. The rookie quarterback came in with 4:31 left on the clock and the Cardinals losing by two points, and the drive to get the go-ahead field goal ended instead with an interception. The Cardinals fell to 0-3 with a crushing 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears at State Farm Stadium, but at the same time, the Rosen era – without a beginning out of Hollywood – likely has begun.
Wilks wouldn’t commit to such. Not yet. The coach said the staff would look at the video of both Rosen and Sam Bradford first, and factor in both quarterback play and other offensive factors, like offensive line play.
Rosen wouldn’t say if he should be the starter. Bradford also declined to weigh in. But as for how he was feeling, Rosen acknowledged he was “kind of content.”
“I got to get out there and understand (playing), get the feel of a real NFL game,” Rosen said. “But I definitely can play a lot better.”
He figures to get that chance, whether it is next week in a home date against Seattle, or sometime sooner.
“I feel bad for Sam because he’s worked his tail off,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “But you have a first-round pick (behind you), I guess you’re on borrowed time.”
Rosen finished 4-for-7 for 36 yards. The Cardinals had the ball on their own 25 when he took over, the Bears (2-1) having taken their first lead of the game on a 43-yard Cody Parkey field goal. He completed his first pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham for nine yards and moved the Cards to the Chicago 42 at the two-minute warning.
On third-and-2, the Cards ran a counter play for rookie Chase Edmonds that the Bears blew up for a loss of three yards. David Johnson was on the sideline for the play.
“We have total confidence, number one, in Chase as well as David,” Wilks said. “We thought the call right there was good. I don’t think it really was who was in the game. I think it was penetration up front. Got to do a better job blocking for us in that situation.”
Guard Justin Pugh said up until that point, his feeling was that the Cardinals were going to pull it out.
“That’s bad – we have to convert those,” Pugh said. “They were better than us on that play.”
On fourth-and-5, Rosen said he underthrew an open Christian Kirk. Defensive back Bryce Callahan grabbed the interception, and the best opportunity to win fizzled. A second possession featured another Rosen interception that was negated on a penalty, and the game ended when Rosen was sacked.
“I threw a pick and almost a second pick-6, so I have a lot to work on,” Rosen said.
“In that situation, I would say (it’s) pretty difficult,” Fitzgerald said. “To be going to win a game the first time you’re stepping in there, and you haven’t played … in weeks.”
Indeed, Rosen hadn’t played in a game since the second preseason contest in New Orleans in mid-August. Frankly, it didn’t look like he’d play Sunday either, not with the way Bradford started.
On the Cardinals’ first two possessions, Bradford hit tight end Ricky Seals-Jones for a 35-yard touchdown and then Johnson for a 21-yard TD pass. A team that had scored six points in its first two games had a 14-0 lead with time left in the first quarter.
But Bradford had 92 yards passing after the second score and the offense could do little after that. He finished 13-for-19 for 157 yards, and that included a late 32-yard pass to Christian Kirk (who had a big game with seven catches for 90 yards.) But the Kirk play was followed up by a Bradford fumble, costing the Cardinals a chance at least at a field goal and was his third turnover of the game – he also threw two interceptions.
“I’m not really sure (what happened),” Bradford said. “We got off to a fast start and then kind of the same thing, it seemed like. We didn’t convert on third down and then it’s halftime and we’ve run 15 plays again.”
The Cards converted 3-of-10 third downs in the game and ran 21 plays in the first half.
It undercut the best performance of the season by the Cardinals’ defense. The Bears moved the ball but only got into the end zone once. The Cards forced a pair of turnovers as well, although they couldn’t stop the Bears from driving for their final go-ahead field goal.
And Rosen couldn’t provide heroics in his first try.
“We’ve got to come up with the plays when necessary to win the game,” Wilks said.
Images from the Week 3 matchup against Chicago at State Farm Stadium