Sam or Josh? QB decision looms after Cardinals’ Rosen can’t provide spark

Sep 23, 2018, 7:02 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2018, 1:06 pm

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen entered the Arizona Cardinals’ game against the Chicago Bears in the thick of a two-point game.

Down 16-14 with four minutes to play, the 10th overall draft pick debuted by engineering at least a breath of life — before throwing an interception with just a minute to play.

“I felt like we needed a spark,” Arizona head coach Steve Wilks said of his decision to pull starter Sam Bradford for the untested rookie late in the fourth quarter.

Neither team scored again, and Arizona fell to 0-3 Sunday at State Farm Stadium. For the first time publicly since the Cardinals refurbished their quarterback room, the Rosen-Bradford decision is unquestionably and publicly on the table in front of Wilks.

“We’re gonna evaluate Josh as well as Sam, we’ll watch the tape and we’ll see exactly what I want to do moving forward with that,” Wilks said.

Should the Cardinals stick with Rosen after he completed 4-of-7 passes for 36 yards and an interception?

As uninspiring as those numbers look on paper, the rhythm and accuracy of his passes at least confirmed why Arizona felt compelled to go to him.

In his first drive as an NFL quarterback, Rosen led Arizona 30 yards in eight plays before a 3rd-and-2 handoff to rookie running back Chase Edmonds — who replaced David Johnson — set the Cardinals back three yards. So on 4th-and-5, Rosen slung a pass to rookie receiver Christian Kirk headed toward the sideline. It just wasn’t far enough out of bounds, and the pass was picked off by Chicago’s Bryce Callahan.

“I mean, I threw a pick and almost a second pick-six so got a lot to work on,” Rosen said afterward.

Rosen and the Cardinals would get the ball back with 43 seconds left, but a completion to Kirk, a pick-six saved by a Chicago penalty and a 12-yard rush by the quarterback weren’t enough. Rosen was sacked at Arizona’s 39-yard line as time expired.

Asked after the game if he expected to play against the Bears, Rosen said he didn’t. And he said he will continue to prepare the same way, regardless of who his head coach decides to start at quarterback.

“I’m ready every week and every backup on this team is always ready because football is a very violent sport,” Rosen said. “Anything can happen and everyone should prepare … as if they are the starter.”

He found out he’d enter the game from quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich after Bradford’s fumble in the red zone with 11:33 to play took away the Cardinals’ chance at increasing on a 14-13 lead.

The forced fumble by Bears linebacker Khalil Mack at Chicago’s 21-yard line followed two interceptions by Bradford, who went 13-of-19 for 157 yards. He threw two touchdown passes in two of the first three drives for Arizona as the Cardinals went ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.

Bradford wouldn’t indulge in predicting whether he’ll start Week 4 at home against the Seattle Seahawks.

“It’s coach’s decision, obviously,” Bradford said after the benching. “Respect his decision. Like I said, more than anything, just disappointed that I put the team in such a bad spot today.”

Early on, it looked like Bradford has slipped out of the struggles that had something to do with opponents outscoring Arizona 58-6 in the first two games of the year. The veteran threw a 30-yard pass to Kirk on the third play from scrimmage before tight end Ricky Seals-Jones broke wide open for a 35-yard touchdown pass as the Cardinals used just 2:48 to go ahead 7-0.

The Cardinals built a 14-0 lead after defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche forced a strip-sack on Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky that was recovered by Arizona’s Corey Peters, setting up a 21-pass from Bradford to running back David Johnson for a 14-0 Cardinal lead with 1:40 left in the first quarter.

Chicago, however, would score 16 unanswered points as the Cardinals’ offensive attack reverted back to its anemic ways.

Wilks now is on the clock in terms of determining how Arizona will find a rhythm. He can trust that three big plays from Bradford are enough signs of progress, or believe that Rosen’s more lively arm — and even legs — will give the Cardinals the best chance to win.

“Thought he looked pretty good, inconsistent in the end,” Wilks said of Rosen. “We got to do a good job as far as protection to give him time. But under the circumstances there, thrown into the game, I thought he did well.”

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