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Dan Bickley

In comeback win, Rosen planted seeds of legend and gave Arizona hope

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws as San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Abandon ship, like Patrick Peterson once desired. Abandon hope, like the dispirited souls who left thousands of empty seats in their wake.

We all received a powerful reminder on Sunday, from fair-weather fans to frustrated football players:

Never give up on a team with a franchise quarterback.

This story is as powerful as Larry Fitzgerald’s spike, the exclamation point on the Cardinals’ 18-15 win over the 49ers. He’s never done that before. Not in 26 college games. Not in his previous 225 NFL starts. Not in Pop Warner or any level of competition.

But this was the perfect storm, a proud man overcome by happiness, rage, celebration and shame.

Mostly because his 15-year old son had also given up on the Cardinals, choosing to go to the state fair over State Farm Stadium.

“He didn’t want to come support us, so I’m trying to pick up the pieces,” Fitzgerald said. “I have to be a better father.”

This story is bigger than Steve Wilks, the rookie head coach who made painful adjustments (Mike McCoy), personal adjustments (playing Deone Bucannon) and is mercifully spared from spending his bye week on a stovetop. It transcends the performance of Byron Leftwich, who ascended from intern to offensive coordinator in less than three years, producing tangible baby steps against the 49ers.

This is about Josh Rosen, and the seeds of a legend he planted on Sunday.

Rosen spun a game-winning, fourth-quarter comeback out of thin air. He coaxed victory from a wretched contest, lifting his own miserable performance on command. His fourth-quarter numbers hit like a bolt of a lightning: 12-of-18 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers.

His poise and presence were even better. And it’s a shame we all couldn’t have been in that huddle when he inaugurated the final drive.

“We’re about to win this (expletive) game, that’s what he said,” offensive lineman D.J. Humphries said. “Excuse my French. (But) that’s what he said.”

Said Rosen: “Something with some expletives. Got to leave it up to the imagination.”

None of this stuff matters in the standings. The Cardinals are not going to turn their season around based on two wins against the hapless 49ers. Their situation is not a quick fix. Their roster is too flawed for mid-season miracles.

But all of this stuff matters in Arizona, a bandwagon town that bails at the first sign of trouble, far quicker than our star cornerback.

Rosen helped you find your missing belief. He threw two touchdown passes on the game-winning drive, including one that was dropped by J.J. Nelson, who should’ve been cut on the spot. His passer rating for the first three quarters was 47.9, 45.6 and 42.4.

It soared to 129.4 in the final 15 minutes, nearly the amount of his previous three quarters combined.

That’s not a comeback. That’s a declaration.

“He always has that belief in his voice and you can see the conviction in his eyes,” Fitzgerald said. “It was on full display on those two last drives today.”

This is exactly what the Cardinals needed to lower the civic temperature and keep their fan base intact. It’s not just a victory. It’s a nod to the future, which makes a 2-6 record tenable. At least for another two weeks.

Rosen discounted the significance of the moment, how a rookie quarterback stood and delivered like he did, when he did, just as the season was ready to slip into the abyss. He spared Wilks the indignity of termination rumors in the coming days. He made it possible for Nelson to go out in public, although I wouldn’t pass him the salt, lest that crash to the floor as well.

And best of all, the franchise quarterback made history on Sunday, doing something no quarterback has ever achieved in Arizona:

He prompted Fitzgerald to spike a football.

“My feelings were a little hurt so I was carrying that around all day,” Fitzgerald said. “So when I got in (the end zone), I kind of let it out. To all the kids that are watching, I’m sorry. I set a bad example today.”

Rosen did the opposite. He set a great example across the board. To those in his locker room who felt like quitting on a grounded franchise. And to those who protested with their absence, believing they had found a better way to spend their Sunday.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier