Rookies Rosen and Kirk rally Cardinals past 49ers
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen hit fellow rookie Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown with 34 seconds left to play as the Cardinals rallied from behind to beat the San Francisco 49ers 18-15 on Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The Cardinals are 2-6 with both the wins coming at the hands of the 49ers, who are 1-7. Arizona has beaten San Francisco eight straight times. The Cardinals also won for the first time at home this season under first-year coach Steve Wilks.
Before Rosen’s touchdown pass, the 49ers appeared in control after Fred Warner’s fumble recovery after Arizona tight end Jermaine Gresham lost control of the ball. San Francisco could have held on for the win if its offense could have generated a couple of first downs, but Arizona’s defense held firm and forced a punt.
In the game-winning drive, Rosen connected on two passes to Larry Fitzgerald for 31 yards, found Kirk for a 19-yard gain and delivered a strike to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones for 13 more yards. After the touchdown throw to Kirk, Rosen hit Fitzgerald for the two-point conversion.
Fitzgerald joked that he uncharacteristically spiked the ball after the conversion because his son Devin opted to attend the Arizona State Fair rather than watch him play.
“My feelings were a little hurt,” Fitzgerald said with a slight smile. “I was carrying that around all day and I kind of let it out.”
Wilks said: “We don’t spike the ball in our house but I’ll let that one slide. I think he got carried away.”
The 49ers also blew a 15-3 lead with 13:33 remaining after wide receiver Marquise Goodwin got some separation from Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and turned a short crossing route into a 55-yard touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard
“Our defense gave us a very good chance to win that, giving us three turnovers and getting us a 12-point lead,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “We didn’t capitalize on them enough for touchdowns and we didn’t make the plays at the end when we needed to.”
The Cardinals responded after Goodwin’s touchdown with a six-play, 71-yard drive, capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rosen to Fitzgerald with 11:06 left. A 37-yard pass from Rosen to Fitzgerald, in addition to a roughing-the-passer penalty on the 49ers, helped set up the touchdown.
The 15 points in the fourth quarter drew praise from the Cardinals for new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who took over on Oct. 19 when Mike McCoy was fired.
“We really didn’t change too much in the offense,” said Rosen, who completed 23-of-40 passes for 252 yards, the two touchdowns and an interception. “The one thing Byron is really good with is his demeanor. … He’s got really good timing with a lot of his play-calls, he’s a steadying force for us on offense.”
Fitzgerald finished with a season-highs in receptions (eight) and yards (102), a touchdown reception, and another scoring catch on the two-point conversion.
Fitzgerald’s 112th career touchdown catch moves him past Tony Gonzalez into seventh on the NFL career list. He’s caught a touchdown pass in each of his last two games after getting none the first six games of the season. He needs three to tie Antonio Gates for sixth.
“I threw him the ball and he caught it, whether it was a good ball or a bad ball,” Rosen said of his touchdown connection with Fitzgerald. “That’s why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I’m going to be telling my kids one day that I got to throw to him.”
Cardinals running back David Johnson, who finished with 100 yards on 20 carries, was evaluated for a concussion late in the fourth quarter but managed to return to the game on the team’s game-winning drive.
The Cardinals played without safety Tre Boston (ribs/shoulder), right guard Justin Pugh (hand) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (ankle), all of whom were inactive on Sunday.
The 49ers lost defensive backs Reuben Foster (hamstring), Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and Amare Exum Jr. (head) during the course of the game. Tartt’s interception in the first half resulted in a 27-yard field goal by Robbie Gould that gave San Francisco a 5-3 lead.
The Cardinals are on their bye week and won’t play again until Nov. 11 when they visit Kansas City. The 49ers have a quick turnaround hosting Bay area rival Oakland on Thursday.