Kirk has big early play, Cardinals beat Chargers 24-17
GLENDALE — Arizona rookie Christian Kirk nearly broke a long punt return for a touchdown the first time he touched the ball as an NFL player.
As it was, the 38-yard return set up a touchdown drive for the Cardinals in the first-team offense's only series of the game, and Arizona beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 in the teams' preseason opener on Saturday night.
Rookie Josh Rosen completed 6 of 13 passes for 41 yards in his Arizona debut, playing the whole first half except the opening series.
Geno Smith, battling Cardale Jones for the right to back up the Chargers' Philip Rivers, completed 14 of 23 passes for 218 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown throw to Geremy Davis. He was intercepted once.
With Rivers sitting this one out, Jones started and played nearly the entire first half, completing 6 of 12 passes for 50 yards.
Kirk, Arizona's second-round draft pick out of Texas A&M, took the Chargers' early punt and broke free. He might have taken it all the way had he not slipped trying to make a move against Los Angeles punter Drew Kaser.
David Johnson reeled off a pair of 14-yard runs on the first two plays, his only carries of the night, and rookie Chase Edmonds scored on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Edmonds was hit behind the line of scrimmage but used a second effort to barely stretch the ball over the goal line.
Sam Bradford, making his debut as Arizona's starting quarterback, directed the scoring drive in his Cardinals debut but mostly handed the ball off. He completed his only pass for six yards.
Arizona's second touchdown came in the third quarter when Jeremy Cash returned a fumble 12 yards for a score. Later in the quarter, Cash was carted off the field with a knee injury.
The Cardinals' fourth-string quarterback Charles Kanoff, an undrafted rookie out of Princeton, threw a 14-yard TD pass to Bryce Williams for the go-ahead score with 10:06 to play.
The game ended when Chargers QB Nic Shimonek was tackled at the Arizona 2-yard line.
Rosen didn't get much help from his offensive line or his receivers, having to dodge the rush to get a pass off. He had two passes dropped.
Daniel Munyer, the backup center now that rookie Mason Cole is a starter, had trouble with shotgun formation snaps, repeatedly rolling the ball to the quarterback. Cole took over when A.Q. Shipley went down with a torn ACL in training camp.
Los Angeles left tackle Russell Okung raised his right first during the national anthem.
Okung stood behind the rest of the players, who had lined up on the sideline. He was the only player on either side to protest visibly.
Okung is a member of the NFL players union's executive committee.
Los Angeles turned the ball over four times, three times on fumbles and once on an interception.
The Chargers also were penalized 15 times for 155 yards.
The Cardinals appeared to get a turnover when safety A.J. Howard jarred the ball loose from tight end Sean Culkin in the first half.
Arizona recovered, but Howard was called for a hit on a defenseless receiver, even though Culkin had turned and was bracing for the tackle.
Chargers: are home against the Seattle Seahawks next Saturday night.
Cardinals: play at New Orleans on Friday night.