DETROIT — Josh McCown's chin was bloodied, the result of a forearm across the jaw he took in the first quarter Sunday from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was penalized for roughing the passer on the play.
McCown walked like a penguin in a tight tuxedo to the postgame news conference, with enough ice taped around his back to build an igloo.
"I've got so much respect for that man," receiver Vincent Jackson said of the Bucs' 35-year-old quarterback. "It's been a rough year for him. He's taken it, he gets off that ground and dusts himself off every time. I'm going to take him out to a nice dinner when we're all done this year, maybe help him get some ice bags and take them over to his house. He's really one of the toughest guys I've ever been around."
McCown was sacked a season-high six times and hit on 14 other occasions in the Bucs' 34-17 loss to the Lions. He passed for 250 yards and two touchdowns to Mike Evans but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble on a bad snap from center Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Facing one of the league's most ferocious front fours, Tampa Bay reached low water marks for rushing yards (26) and rushing attempts (14) against the No. 1 run defense in the NFL.
Having watched McCown get mowed down in Motown, and with the Bucs (2-11) officially eliminated from the playoff picture in the downtrodden NFC South, coach Lovie Smith might do McCown a favor. He said he will at least consider taking a look at second-year quarterback Mike Glennon in the final three games.
"You know, these last three games, we'll consider all things," Smith said. "There's a lot of things we want to do. But No. 1, we want to win the football game, so you start with that. If there's someone we feel we need to see a little bit more of, we'll do that. Right after a tough loss like this, you don't make those types of decisions. But we'll start that process."
McCown wasn't the only player beaten up by the Lions. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had to leave the game for a few series in the first half with a right knee sprain. Linebacker Lavonte David suffered a concussion when he caught a knee from receiver Calvin Johnson, who carved up the Bucs secondary with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown.
The Bucs' offensive line was overmatched, especially by Suh, who finished with a sack, six tackles (three for losses), three quarterback hits and the kind of penalty that has cemented his reputation as one of the league's dirtiest players.
With the Bucs trailing 17-3 late in the first half, McCown rolled to his right and launched a 50-yard pass to Jackson. Suh took two steps after the ball was released and struck McCown across the chin with his forearm, drawing a flag. The play eventually led to McCown's 5-yard touchdown pass to Evans.
"I love how that guy plays, because he plays hard," McCown said of Suh. "He crosses the line out there sometimes. He needs to be careful. I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said."
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Suh wouldn't say whether he apologized to McCown after the game. "We spoke, but I like to keep things personal," he said.
If any apologies to McCown are needed, they should come from his offensive line. Or perhaps from offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, who never gave the ground game a chance.
"We couldn't protect the quarterback," Smith said. "We couldn't run the ball. We couldn't do anything throughout. We had a couple of long throws that got us a couple points. As you look at the score, you say, 'Hey, we were able to do something.' But we never really got anything going on the offensive side to give us a chance.
"In hindsight, especially with how we ended up passing the ball and not being able to protect it, no, we weren't committed enough to the run early on."
That left McCown with no choice but to throw the ball to Jackson (10 catches, 159 yards) and Evans (4 for 45 yards, 2 TDs), even though he paid a terrible price in the pocket.
"You just take your hat off to Josh because he stands in there, he takes it week after week," tackle Demar Dotson said. "We try to keep that guy clean, and he goes out there and takes those licks. It shows just the kind of heart and passion that he has."
After the game and behind closed locker room doors, Smith told his players the obvious.
"Lovie said when he closed us in after the game, 'We are not a good team right now,' " Jackson said.
Later Sunday, the Bucs got more confirmation of that. With the Raiders upsetting the 49ers, the Bucs enter the final three weeks of the season with the No. 1 pick in the draft.