NEW ORLEANS – The Cardinals constructed their quarterback room this offseason with one eye on the present and the other on the future.
The vision was in clear focus on Friday night in the Big Easy.
Starting quarterback Sam Bradford and first-round pick Josh Rosen both excelled as the Cardinals moved to 2-0 in the preseason with a 20-15 win over the Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Bradford, who signed a two-year free agent deal in March, finished 6-of-6 for 61 yards, leading the Cardinals to a touchdown on his third and final drive. Rosen, who the Cardinals traded up for in the draft, went 10-of-16 for 107 yards, including his first NFL touchdown pass to fellow rookie Christian Kirk.
Coach Steve Wilks said both quarterbacks deserved game balls for their performances.
"You love what they did," Wilks said.
The Cardinals' first two drives stalled in part due to penalties, but Bradford hit a groove on the third one. He completed passes of 15 yards to Chad Williams, 12 yards to Christian Kirk, 17 yards to Gabe Holmes and six yards to Greg Little, setting up a 9-yard touchdown run by David Johnson.
Bradford completed his six passes to six different receivers in the contest.
"One of the things in coach (Mike) McCoy's offense is, the ball does get spread out," Bradford said. "It goes to whoever is open. That's kind of how I like it. It was good to see everyone get involved tonight."
Johnson was wrapped up by multiple Saints on his rushing score, but the offensive line kept pushing forward and Johnson ended up in the end zone. He finished with six carries for 22 yards and the touchdown. Left tackle D.J. Humphries was unsure if Johnson was still upright as he paved the way during the scoring run.
"I could just feel stuff moving behind me, so I just kept rolling," Humphries said. "I didn't hear a whistle so I didn't stop. I haven't seen the highlight. I heard it was pretty sweet, though."
Rosen's first drive resulted in a 13-yard scoring pass to Kirk. He showed off a nice combination of accuracy and velocity from the pocket throughout the series. A deep throw intended for J.J. Nelson drew a pass interference penalty at the New Orleans 3, and even though a pair of penalties moved the ball back to the 13, great protection allowed Rosen to double-pump and deliver a laser to Kirk for the score.
"It's awesome to always get your first (NFL touchdown)," Rosen said, "but I didn't save the ball or anything. I'm waiting for, hopefully, a regular season game to throw my first."
The two quarterbacks captained the passing game differently -- Rosen took more chances downfield while Bradford found mostly-open recovers in the short and intermediate range -- but both were effective.
"We definitely have our different styles, but I'm trying to pick a little bit from his game to be the best that I can be," Rosen said. "We're always competing in practice and games. Today was just a fun one."
The Cardinals' starting defense gave up some big plays on the ground but forced four turnovers in the first half to limit the Saints to a field goal at intermission. They now have eight takeaways in two preseason games.
Cornerback Bene' Benwikere had a beautiful toe-touching pick on a deep pass down the sideline, defensive tackle Olsen Pierre had a sack and a forced fumble, and defensive end Vontarrius Dora had two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Haason Reddick started the turnover party by plucking a twice-tipped pass out of the air on New Orleans' first drive.
The Cardinals' first half was impressive. The biggest worry was a foot injury to defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche because he left the game, but Wilks said the injury is minor.
The Cardinals' lone score of the second half was a 53-yard field goal by undrafted rookie Matt McCrane, who is trying to push veteran incumbent Phil Dawson for the kicker job. It gave the Cardinals a 20-3 lead, and while the Saints scored 12 late points to make it close, the Cardinals recovered an onside kick with under a minute remaining to clinch the win.
The Cardinals remained undefeated in the preseason, and more importantly, saw impressive efforts from Bradford and Rosen.
"There were a lot of good things tonight, things we can really build on," Bradford said.