A game-winning touchdown pass with 34 seconds left after a 73-yard drive, and a huge fourth quarter just to make a victory possible – in checking off the boxes in a rookie quarterback’s development, those seem significant.
“It’s your guys’ job to talk about how important it all is,” Josh Rosen said after doing those things Sunday against the 49ers. “For us, it’s just another win. Whether we win in awesome fashion like that or blew them out, it’s all the same.”
Maybe. Maybe it isn’t quite the same, though, as the way Rosen learned and grew when he and the Cards beat the 49ers in San Francisco. There is something about a fourth-quarter rally that serves as a mini-crucible for a young QB, even in a season where the roller coaster is ongoing.
Far from a finished product, Rosen’s game Sunday felt like a microcosm of his season thus far and inevitably how it will play out through the game in Seattle Week 17. There was good and bad.
“Nothing really fazes this guy in a negative way,” coach Steve Wilks said Monday. “He takes everything and he tries to learn from it. … This experience (Sunday), particularly that last drive, is going to help him grow.”
Rosen became the youngest quarterback in the Super Bowl era (beginning in 1967) to win a game by rallying a team from a fourth-quarter, double-digit deficit. Rosen was only 21 years and 260 days old Sunday.
With youth comes missteps. Through three quarters, Rosen was only 11-of-22 passing for 102 yards and a bad interception in which he stared down wide receiver Christian Kirk and had it picked off – and that was with a lot of early screen calls that were successful. Rosen also had an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety on a play in which he looked like he had enough time to at least get off a short pass and set up a punt.
“It felt pretty frustrating the first couple of quarters,” Rosen said. “We were just trying to sort of get our feet under us.”
But Rosen was marvelous in the fourth quarter, his most consistent period of his short starting career and probably his best stretch since his impressive (and drop-laden) initial start against Seattle. He finished 12-of-18 for 150 yards and the two touchdowns in his comeback.
“He always just stays even-keeled,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “That’s a great disposition to have as a quarterback because there are going to be bad plays, there are going to be dropped passes and things like that that’re going to happen throughout the course of the game and he never lets those affect him. He always has that belief in his voice and you can see the conviction in his eyes.”
Rosen’s greatest asset isn’t his strong arm or intelligence, although both will serve him well. It has been his bulletproof confidence, which allowed him to get past inaccuracy against the 49ers, frustration in Minnesota, and his turnover-fest against Denver. New offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich called those screen plays to help out. Rosen was aided when Fitzgerald became a serious target again (12 balls thrown his way, and a season-best eight catches) as well.
The Cards also have two weeks to get him ready for a road game in Kansas City, including a few practices this week featuring work not against a Chiefs “look” team but the Cardinals’ defense itself – which will be a little like a training camp week.
“It gives you more reps and that’s the critical thing – he just needs more reps,” Wilks said.
The rest of the season includes five road games, including trips post-Kansas City to the Chargers, Green Bay and Atlanta as well as Seattle. It’d be daunting for any quarterback, much less a rookie.
Rosen is ready for whatever roller coaster might come with it, just like he waves away any bad throws or bad decisions.
“It’s a game,” Rosen said. “I have fun with it.”
EXTRA POINTS: Wilks said he was optimistic that safety Tre Boston (shoulder/ribs) and guard Justin Pugh (hand) would be available again post-bye. There were no other major injuries to report. …
Wilks said the plan is to keep T.J. Logan as the kickoff return man, although it may be impacted by injuries week to week on the gameday 46-man active roster.
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