TEMPE – Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen found himself in familiar territory Sunday as he and the Arizona Cardinals trailed San Francisco, 15-10, with 2:16 remaining in the game.
It was nearly a mirror image of his first NFL action when Rosen entered a game against the Chicago Bears in the third week of the season trailing 16-14 with 4:31 to play.
In that game, Rosen was intercepted on his first drive and failed to get the Cardinals into the end zone on their following possession as Arizona fell short against the Bears.
One week after that disappointment, the Cardinals trailed Seattle 17-10 in the fourth quarter when Rosen rallied them to a 17-17 tie. He then led the Cardinals’ offense on a 49-yard drive that put Arizona in position to take the lead, only to have kicker Phil Dawson miss a potential game-winning 45-yard field goal. The Seahawks ended up winning when Sebastian Janikowski converted a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the game.
On Sunday, Rosen finished the job.
With the first-year quarterback taking command of the huddle, Arizona drove 73 yards to score as Rosen delivered a touchdown strike to fellow rookie Christian Kirk that put the Cardinals ahead with 34 seconds to play.
“Nothing really phases this guy in a negative way,” Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said Monday. “He takes everything, and he tries to learn from it.
“This experience (Sunday) night, particularly that two-minute drive, I think is going to help his growth.”
Rosen’s development is going to be pivotal for the franchise moving forward, but through Week 8 of the NFL season, he has made his mark among rookie quarterbacks.
Rosen boasts the second highest completion percentage among rookies (55.6 percent), behind No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns (58.3 percent).
Rosen’s 252 passing yards against the 49ers is his career best, and it was more than any other rookie quarterback accumulated in Week 8.
Rosen’s clutch performance came in a week of transition as the Cardinals relieved Mike McCoy of his offensive coordinator duties earlier in the week and promoted former NFL quarterback Byron Leftwich to offensive coordinator.
Under Leftwich, the offense erupted in the fourth quarter for 186 yards and 15 points.
“I think Byron had a good game plan for all of those guys,” Wilks said.
The promotion of Leftwich certainly seemed to benefit veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who recorded his best game of the season with eight receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“Larry is phenomenal,” Wilks said. “I thought Josh made some dynamic throws down the stretch, but also, Larry came up with some big catches.
“That’s who he is. First-ballot Hall-of-Famer,” Wilks added about Fitzgerald.
The victory gave the Cardinals a season sweep of the 49ers and sent Arizona into its bye week with new-found confidence. The Cardinals return to action Nov. 11 against the once-beaten Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“The atmosphere, particularly in the team meeting just now, you can tell the vibe was different,” Wilks said.
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