CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Josh Rosen won a California high school championship at StubHub Center five years ago. He also played competitive tennis at the complex’s training facility while growing up in nearby Manhattan Beach.
His first trip to the suburban stadium as the Cardinals’ rookie quarterback won’t join those fond memories.
Instead, this 45-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers will loom as another low point in an increasingly rough year for Arizona (2-9).
“It was nice coming back home,” Rosen said. “Last time I was on this field was the high school state championship game, so I have better memories than today. But we’ll keep pushing forward.”
After jumping to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Arizona was comprehensively flattened by the Chargers (8-3) in its third straight defeat. Players and coaches alike were left grasping for answers even while insisting they’ve still got reasons to keep working hard this season.
“Guys are not doing the things that we’ve been coached to do,” defensive tackle Corey Peters said. “That’s frustrating, but we’re not going to be discouraged. … All I know how to do is put my head down and go back to work when things aren’t going right. I think that’s the best way to approach anything in football and in life. Just try to do your best.”
The Cardinals have ensured their third consecutive non-winning season since making the NFC championship game three years ago, and they’ll need three wins in their final five games just to match this franchise’s worst record since 2003.
The Cards realize they’re running out of chances to show progress in coach Steve Wilks’ debut season. Two weeks after staying close to the powerhouse Chiefs in a 26-14 loss, Arizona has dropped a home game to lowly Oakland and been routed in Carson.
At least one unit is unlikely to take more heat than the other when Wilks reviews the film. The Cardinals were starkly outplayed on both sides of the ball.
The Cardinals scored on their first two drives, yet Arizona finished with a measly 149 total yards against Los Angeles’ defense. After those two solid drives to start, the Cards got just 41 yards the rest of the way on nine drives, including a paltry 19 total yards in middle two quarters.
Rosen was sacked only twice, including one crushing hit by Joey Bosa, but he felt constant pressure.
“I think you’ve got to give credit to the Chargers, but our first- and second-down plays weren’t that efficient, and it puts you in some tough third downs with a really good pass rush,” said Rosen, who went 12 of 19 for 105 yards with one self-described “really easy” interception.
“When you’ve got Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and those guys (coming at you), there’s only so much you can do in third and long,” Rosen added.
The Arizona defense’s struggles perhaps were even more glaring: Philip Rivers tied an NFL record by completing 25 consecutive passes against the Cards while marching the Chargers to 45 unanswered points, including touchdowns on five consecutive possessions.
“That was nuts,” Rosen said of Rivers’ perfect streak. “I went up to him after the game and I was like, ‘Bro, that was crazy.’ That’s why he is who he is.”
With Rivers firing flawlessly through the Arizona secondary, Los Angeles made six drives stretching at least 58 yards apiece. The Chargers controlled the ball for more than 20 minutes in the second half while Arizona made only four drives, getting 25 yards and one first down with 16 plays.
“They had us running around a little bit, and we had a hard time stopping them,” defensive end Chandler Jones said. “Hats off to Philip Rivers. He played a tremendous game. He was picking us apart with little dink passes, short passes, and they hurt us. … I wouldn’t use the word ’embarrassing’ at all. The Chargers are a professional football team, and they played like one.”
Jones’ coach disagreed: When Wilks was asked if this one was embarrassing, he called it “definitely an understatement there.”
“It definitely was embarrassing, definitely not what we want,” Wilks added. “This organization, that team in that locker room, these players and coaches, we’ve got to do better.”
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