ARIZONA CARDINALS

Rare, late offensive outburst lifts Cardinals to season sweep of 49ers

Oct 28, 2018, 6:50 PM
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) makes a touchdown catch as San Francisco 49ers ...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk (13) makes a touchdown catch as San Francisco 49ers defensive back Tyvis Powell (30) and cornerback Jimmie Ward (20) defend during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Through three quarters of Sunday’s game at State Farm Stadium, it looked like the same old uphill slog for the Arizona Cardinals’ offense.

Sure, the guy calling the plays was different, but Arizona had managed only 134 yards of offense and three points against the struggling San Francisco 49ers.

But the fourth quarter looked and felt different; the Cardinals moved the ball efficiently and exploded for 15 points to escape with a hard-fought 18-15 win in front of 61,923 fans.

Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, making just his fifth start as a pro, completed 12-of 18 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the final quarter, spearheading the Cardinals’ comeback.

Things looked bleak early in the quarter after San Francisco’s Robbie Gould nailed a 20-yard field that capped an 11-play, 73-yard drive and gave the 49ers (1-7) a 15-3 lead. What the Cardinals’ offense has shown through the season’s first half gave that deficit an unsurmountable feel.

But Rosen wasn’t having any of it. On the ensuing possession, he marched the Cardinals down the field with the big play coming on a 37-yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald, which was coupled with a roughing-the-passer penalty on Arik Armstead, which moved the ball all the way to the San Francisco 13-yard line.

On second down, Rosen hooked up with Fitzgerald again on a 13-yard scoring strike to pull the Cardinals to within five points.

San Francisco punted on its next possession, and the Cardinals appeared to be on the move again. On 2nd-and-8 from the Arizona 40, Rosen hit tight end Jermaine Gresham down the left sideline for a 17-yard pickup. Gresham, however, fumbled (and the ball inexplicably remained inbounds) and it was recovered by linebacker Fred Warner with just 4:44 to go.

The 49ers didn’t do anything on their next possession either, punting the ball back to Arizona with 2:16 to go.

Needing 73 yards for a score and the lead, Rosen didn’t exactly tiptoe into the huddle meekly, as most rookies in that situation would have.

“We’re about to win this (expletive) game, that’s what he said,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said of Rosen’s late-game motivational words. “Excuse my French. That’s what he said. Josh is always like that. That’s how he moves.”

Facing a third down at the 27, Rosen looked to Fitzgerald again, completing an 11-yard pass and moving the chains on the final play before the two-minute warning. On the next play, he hit Fitzgerald again, this time for 20 yards into San Francisco territory. After an incompletion, Rosen found fellow rookie Christian Kirk for 19 yards down to the 23.

Strangely enough, Rosen’s best pass of the game might have been an incompletion. On first down, the 21-year-old laced a rocket down the seam to J.J. Nelson, who was matched up against 49ers corner Richard Sherman. The throw was right on the money, but Sherman had good enough position to prevent Nelson from making the catch.

Four plays later, facing third-and-goal from the 9, Rosen located Kirk in the back of the end zone for a beautiful touchdown pass to give Arizona its first lead since 3-2 in the second quarter. For good measure, he found Fitzgerald on a two-point conversion pass to pad the lead to three with :39 left.

The defense held and the Cardinals earned just their second win of the season.

The 15-point outburst marked just the fourth time this season the Cardinals have hit double-digits in a single quarter and also established a new season high.

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