While struggling to find early rhythm, Josh Rosen has played well in fourth quarters

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The first time Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Josh Rosen had the ball in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Detroit Lions, down 10 with about 13:31 left on the clock, he hit rookie wide receiver Trent Sherfield for a 17-yard pass.

A play later, Rosen found him again for an 18-yard gain. Thus it began. Again.

For a few minutes, it felt like Rosen was about to bring the Cardinals back from an almost certain loss to either win or, at least, make it close. He got the Cardinals to the Detroit 4-yard line, but Rosen missed Larry Fitzgerald on third-and-goal in the end zone. The Cardinals settled for a field goal, their only points in a 17-3 loss.

While Rosen hasn't exactly been Mr. Comeback this season, he has been Mr. Fourth Quarter.

Ten games into his rookie season, Rosen has played his best late in games. Rosen's completion percentage in the first three quarters is 51.7. In the fourth, it's 61.9 He's thrown for 1,132 yards in the first three quarters. He's thrown for 778 in the fourth. He's thrown six touchdowns and eight interceptions in the first three quarters. He's thrown four of each in the fourth. And he's done it on just 88 fewer completions.

So, why is Rosen better later in games?

"You have to get locked in a little bit," Wilks said. "I think he goes through a process where he gets into a rhythm, and you saw that [in Green Bay]."

Something changes in Rosen in the fourth quarter but he can't explain what.

"I don't know," Rosen said. "I couldn't tell you. I'd like to get into the rhythm earlier, but I don't know."

His best guess as to why he's more accurate in the fourth had a little snark behind it.

"Maybe just try and keep it more interesting, but I don't know," Rosen said. "I couldn't tell you."

Neither can offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich.

"I have no clue," he said. "I really don't. He's a young quarterback, man. ... We just got to let him be a rookie and understand that there are bumps and bruises that come with playing a rookie quarterback.

"But, at the same time, we're still trying to do things to win football games. And he understands that. He wants to be a part of that. He wants to be the reason why we're winning football games so he works his tail off. There's a lot of stuff that we would like to correct, to be honest with you."

Rosen said he's been passing less but they've been trending longer recently in an effort to get more chunk plays. He averaged 33.5 attempts per game in his first six starts. That number dropped to 21.6 attempts in the next three but he threw 41 passes on Sunday. However, he's averaging 1.75 fewer passes of 15 air yards or more per game in his last four starts than in his first six, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

But, Rosen has thrown 30 yards or longer in the air seven times in his last five games compared with six in his first five.

"So, it's a high-risk, high-reward kind of thing. Helping our guys up front out with some more six-, seven-man protections, we've got less receivers on routes," Rosen said. "Sometimes, you're going for the chunk plays, but I'm just trying to get better every week throughout. So, it's a little bit of the offense, a little bit of I definitely can play better and should play better."

With the exception of touchdowns, Rosen is the best rookie quarterback in the fourth quarter.

In the fourth quarter of the Cardinals' three wins this season, Rosen held the lead at San Francisco in Week 5, led Arizona on a 15-0 run to win the second against the Niners at home in Week 8, and then guided the Cardinals on a game-winning drive that was capped with a field goal at Green Bay in Week 13.

Wilks believes Rosen's ability to step up in the fourth is a matter of mind over body.

"You have to hit the reset button, and you can't linger on things," Wilks said. "You can't worry about what happened before. He has an ability to do that, shake things off. I think he's very poised, and I keep saying the word 'confident,' which he is."