Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals quarterback of the future.
That was the label Rosen received the day he was drafted. That was a label he looked like he earned in his first NFL start Sunday, rallying his team at State Farm Stadium to what looked like would be a late win over Seattle.
It wasn’t a victory, however. Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson missed a 45-yard field goal in a tie game with less than two minutes left, only to have Seahawks kicker Sebastian Janikowski hit a 52-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 defeat.
That made it, instead, a gut punch. With, as Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said, a “bright spot – Josh Rosen.”
“When you have a quarterback with his kind of ability, it’s a shot of adrenaline for everybody,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said, albeit quietly.
The Cardinals fall to 0-4 for the first time since 1986 – the team moved to Arizona in 1988 – and are now the lone team in the NFL still chasing a victory. Perhaps that will come sooner rather than later with Rosen, who was blunt in the biggest lesson he took from the game.
"That hopefully I'll be in the NFL for a while," Rosen said.
The rookie didn’t have the greatest statistics – 15-of-27, 180 yards, one touchdown – but he didn’t turn the ball over and should have had four or five more completions, 100 more yards and perhaps another touchdown if there hadn’t been a rash of drops by the receivers. The biggest was a J.J. Nelson miss when he was wide open deep, a play that would've covered at least 50 yards and if it wasn't a touchdown, would have at least put the Cards inside the Seattle 5.
Even Fitzgerald dropped a couple he normally grabs, including an early one over the middle he lamented later. “I’m paid to make that play,” he said.
Rosen was unfazed. He refused to get into the drops much, saying there were plenty of mistakes made, pointing out he missed a wide-open Christian Kirk in the end zone prior to a Dawson field goal early in the game.
His positive vibe is one of the things his teammates, frustrated with another loss, praised after.
“The other alternative is all bad,” Rosen said with a smile. “Might as well keep pushing on, keep encouraging everyone. If something happens bad, ‘Let’s get better,’ and if something happens good, ‘Let’s keep going.’ It’s how sports work, you have to have a positive attitude.”
That will serve the Cardinals well after Sunday. Trailing 17-10 with less than 12 minutes to go, Rosen and running back David Johnson came up with the team’s best drive of the season. Rosen connected with tight end Ricky Seals-Jones to gain 31 yards and, after smartly picking up a bad shotgun snap and throwing it away to save the yards, found Johnson for a screen pass that picked up 30 more yards.
After Johnson was swamped for a three-yard rushing loss, Rosen hit wide receiver Chad Williams for a 22-yard touchdown and a tie game. It was Rosen’s first NFL touchdown, as well as Williams’ first.
The Cardinals forced a three-and-out from the Seahawks (2-2), and Rosen had a chance to have a game-winning drive.
Another pass to Seals-Jones for 21 yards keyed a drive that was mostly Johnson runs. When the Cardinals got to the Seattle 31, three straight runs set up Dawson with the intent to force the Seahawks to use timeouts.
Wilks said he made the decision to stay conservative – “Every decision is my decision,” he said – but the plan fizzled when Dawson pushed the try right. He also pushed a 50-yard attempt right to end the first half. Wilks emphasized that he’d make the same choice again.
“I’ll take a look at it, but good grief, that’s my job,” Dawson said.
“You’ve got to execute,” Wilks said. “Can’t drop passes, can’t miss field goals.”
Russell Wilson, Cardinals killer, then orchestrated the drive that kept the Seahawks undefeated in Arizona since 2013. Six plays moved the ball 31 yards, and Janikowski – who, like Dawson, also missed two field goals – converted from long range.
“A disappointing loss,” Wilks said. “That’s an understatement.”
The Cardinals held the Seahawks to 0-for-10 on third downs, another positive move, and mostly kept Wilson in check. But backup running back Mike Davis, in for the injured Chris Carson, gained 101 yards rushing on 21 attempts and Seattle didn’t face a third down on the game-winning drive until the Seahawks were merely spiking the ball to stop the clock.
Now come two straight road games in San Francisco and Minnesota, more difficult places for both a team searching for a win and for a rookie quarterback.
“This feels bad,” Wilks said. “This is not what we expected. This is not even close to what we expected. (But) the pulse in the locker room is still good, believe it or not.”
That’s largely because of a revelation at the quarterback position, and a rookie who breathed some life into the offense.
“I wanted to win the game,” Rosen said. “I wouldn’t care if I threw 10 picks, I’d prefer that and a win over what happened today.”
Images of the Week 4 matchup at State Farm Stadium