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Bucs' Josh McCown meets expectations at last

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) smiles as he walks off the field after a 27-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) FDX118
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) smiles as he walks off the field after a 27-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) FDX118
Published Nov. 20, 2014

TAMPA

Everyone at One Buc Place agrees this is the Josh McCown they expected to see. • This is the 35-year-old veteran quarterback they remember playing in Chicago, a picture of poise and control, dropping dimes into receivers' hands, pumping his fist and leaping into the meaty arms of an offensive lineman. It's the player who passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in Sunday's 27-7 win at Washington. • "It's what we envisioned, Josh playing football like he did this past Sunday," coach Lovie Smith said, "and for him to continue playing ball like that." • The performance came one week after McCown began his news conference after a home loss to Atlanta with all the emotion of a Miss Teen USA contestant, his eyes about to spill over like full sinks. But his tears didn't extinguish the fire or competitiveness he needed to have one of his best performances as a pro against the Redskins. He completed scoring passes of 36 and 56 yards to rookie Mike Evans, and finished with a 137.5 passer rating.

"I was tired of losing," McCown said of his Falcons news conference. "It's not going the way we wanted it to, but for whatever reason, the way it is this year in the NFC South, we're still in this thing. As long as they paint the field and turn the lights on, I'm going to compete and play."

McCown's journey comes full circle Sunday when he returns to Chicago to face the franchise that was responsible for his rebirth in the league. Smith brought him back to the Bears as a backup in 2011. After Smith was fired in 2012, McCown's career took off last season under coach Marc Trestman. Filling in for injured starter Jay Cutler, McCown went 3-2 while throwing an impressive 13 touchdown passes and only one interception.

"Every now and then, you click with somebody who sees it the way you see it," he said. "I think that's what allowed me to play the level I played at for Marc."

Once Smith was hired by the Bucs last offseason, it led to McCown being lured by a two-year, $10 million contract and the promise of being the starter.

There are several reasons McCown failed in his first three games with the Bucs. A week before the regular season began, offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford had a heart procedure and eventually went on a medical leave. That thrust into the role Marcus Arroyo, a 34-year-old quarterbacks coach who had never called a play in the NFL.

The offensive line was a mess. The Bucs traded for Patriots guard Logan Mankins a week before the season opener. With little protection and no running game, McCown said he put too much pressure on himself to make plays and wound up creating costly turnovers before a broken thumb at Atlanta in Week 3 knocked him out for a month.

After Smith pulled the plug on Mike Glennon following a 1-4 record, McCown played like McCown again. He passed for more than 300 yards and two scores against the Falcons. But the defense couldn't hold another fourth-quarter lead, and two late interceptions doomed a comeback.

After the win at Washington, McCown couldn't stop smiling as he entered his news conference. "It's tight in here, huh?" he said. "Last week did y'all get wet?"

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