TAMPA — Byron Leftwich's arm proved to be better than his aim at ending the Bucs' starting quarterback quandary Thursday against the Dolphins.
Leftwich finished 9-of-17 for 100 yards, converting 4-of-8 third downs and staking the Bucs to a 6-0 lead on a pair of Mike Nugent field goals. His favorite target was 6-foot-5 receiver Maurice Stovall, who caught six for 73 yards.
But while Leftwich didn't slam the door on the quarterback controversy in the 10-6 loss to Miami, Luke McCown got only a few knuckles in the opening.
McCown went 5-of-11 for 38 yards, was sacked twice and called for intentional grounding.
"I felt good. I missed a few, but I hit a few also," Leftwich said.
Leftwich missed seven receivers, took a sack and lost a fumble that was recovered by tight end Kellen Winslow.
He missed left and he missed right. Mostly, Leftwich was wild high and was off-target on possible touchdown passes to Brian Clark and Winslow.
Even so, Leftwich had a better night than McCown, who was victimized by a dropped pass and a 45-minute stoppage in the second quarter due to lightning.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris had delayed announcing a starting quarterback earlier in the week, hoping that Thursday night's game would decide it.
But all it probably did was make an argument that maybe first-round pick Josh Freeman should play sooner rather than later.
"We moved the ball pretty well," Leftwich said. "We have to work on some timing with the guys we have; we had a lot of injuries at wide receiver. I missed a few, but other than that, I like what we did today."
Two errant throws in particular cost the Bucs points. On third and goal from the 11, Leftwich's pass to Clark in the end zone was high.
On the next possession, Winslow broke wide open in the right flat on second and 11 from the Miami 44. Leftwich's pass took off like it had wings, sailing high and prompting a chorus of boos.
Still, Thursday's performance, combined with what he did in the offseason, may be enough to earn Leftwich the starting job.
On the preseason, Leftwich is 21-of-43 for 224 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 72.2. McCown 15-of-28 for 108 with two touchdowns and no interceptions, rating 86.6.
The star of the night proved to be Cadillac Williams. Making his first appearance since suffering a torn left patellar tendon last season, Williams rushed five times in the first quarter for 32 yards (6.4 average), with a 19-yard run. He finished with eight carries for 54 yards.
"It just feels great," Williams said. "It's a blessing. From the strides that I made, I just give praise to the Lord. I'm so excited to be out here with these guys."
After the delay, McCown took over with the rain falling and his team backed up on the 8.
He ran for a first down and not much else until the third quarter when he hit four consecutive passes. But Nugent's 51-yard field goal was wide right.
"When we came out of the lightning delay, they started bringing more pressure," McCown said. "I thought we did a good job of picking it up for the most part … but I've got to get the ball out and avoid the sacks."
McCown was asked how he would react if Leftwich was named the starter.
"Then I just start preparing and start helping Byron be the best starter he can be,'' McCown said. "I prepare every day if called upon. If I'm upset over that decision, if that's the way it goes, that's not fair to my teammates because if something happens to Byron I need to go out and play my best.''