DAN BICKLEY

Bradford’s first-quarter tease gave Cardinals’ Rosen no margin for error

Sep 23, 2018, 6:54 PM | Updated: Sep 24, 2018, 2:50 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, beh...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen (3) is sacked by Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack, behind, as Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) looks on during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The worst of the worst is scrubbed from record. It was Josh Rosen’s second interception that was returned for a touchdown, when a handful of Bears celebrated by leaping into the front row of the end zone seats. Into the warm embrace of ecstatic Chicago fans.

It was so egregious that a man in a Cardinals jersey stormed down from his seat. He began pushing Bears off the wall. It was sad, pathetic, infuriating and the entire scene was completely nullified by penalty.

It didn’t count. But those in the vicinity will never forget the sight of that moment, or the sounds of losing a football game and their home stadium.

The Cardinals remain winless after Sunday’s 16-14 loss to the Bears. It was another erratic performance from a bad football team, and the experience was even worse for those in attendance.

After nine snaps, Sam Bradford had two touchdown passes and three chunky completions. There was innovation on offense, and not just stagnation. The Cardinals grabbed a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter, the kind of game they need to win, the kind of beginning they needed to mute a stadium full of infidels.

But Bradford wouldn’t comply. His body held up but his talent did not. He passed for 92 yards in the first quarter, and 17 yards in the ensuing 30 minutes. His third turnover ended the Yawn of a New Era, and if Bradford never plays another snap, he will join a short list of athletes whose name will forever make you cringe.

“Obviously disappointed in the turnovers,” Bradford said. “I just felt like I put our team in a bad spot in the second half.”

Bradford’s effort was a cruel tease with serious ramifications. Had he failed in the first quarter, he would’ve been showered with boos and replaced by halftime, giving Josh Rosen some margin of error in his NFL debut. Instead, Rosen was dropped into the crucible with 4:31 remaining, expected to lead a game-winning drive in a two-minute drill, in his first real taste of professional football. With Khalil Mack on the other side of the line.

To his credit, the kid looked calm and capable. At least until this new regime made an unspeakable blunder, calling for a handoff to Chase Edmonds on third-and-2 from the Bears’ 42-yard line.

To repeat:

The MVP candidate, David Johnson, was on the sideline for the most important handoff of the game, even though he had only 12 carries all game. They chose to give the ball to another rookie, Chase Edmonds, who lost three yards, setting up Rosen’s first interception. That one counted.

“We have total confidence, No. 1, in Chase as well as David,” Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks said. “We thought the call right there was good. I don’t think it really (mattered) who was in the game. I think it was penetration upfront. Got to do a better job blocking for us in that situation.”

That is terrible logic. In crunch time, the best NFL coaches know that you think of players and not plays. Get the ball to the guys who live for those moments. Ignore the ones who have never produced in high-pressure moments. And maybe target Larry Fitzgerald more than twice in a 60-minute contest, if you don’t mind.

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

Rosen has a natural smirk that can easily be misconstrued. He showed it a couple of times in the locker room after Sunday’s loss, and it was a bit disorienting. Don’t be fooled. It was clear that Rosen was agitated with his debut, failing to deliver a victory like Baker Mayfield did for the city of Cleveland.

It’s a shame Rosen couldn’t have had a few series before he was thrown into the fire. Or that he wasn’t fueled by a partisan crowd cheering his every move.

“I don’t know,” Rosen said of his emotions. “I guess you could say I’m kind of content that I got to get out there and sort of understand and get the feel of a real NFL game. But I definitely could play a lot better. So I’m looking forward to getting better in the weeks that come.”

Meanwhile, Fitzgerald was clearly unhappy with the vibe inside State Farm Stadium. There have been a lot of mixed gatherings at all of our sporting venues, but rarely do they sound like Bears fans did on Sunday, a crowd the Cardinals brought back to life with another buffet of buffoonery.

“I’m not even going to mess with that,” Fitzgerald said.

Redemption is supposed to begin with Red. Problem is, the Cardinals butchered the ending, proving another buffet of buffoonery and another miserable home experience against the Bears.

The new head coach didn’t pound the podium or lose his mind. But the home team playing a road game in Arizona let ’em off the hook. Again.

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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