TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Josh McCown finished two long drives with touchdown passes to outplay rookie Jameis Winston and lead the Cleveland Browns to a 31-7 preseason victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.
Back in half-filled Raymond James Stadium and facing the team that released him to clear the way to select Winston No. 1 overall in this year's draft, McCown completed 17 of 23 passes for 117 yards. He showed why the Browns (1-2) think the 36-year-old quarterback can help them contend for a playoff berth.
Winston, meanwhile, struggled in his third preseason start. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner was 6 of 15 for 90 yards, threw one interception and was sacked four times before leaving after one series in the third quarter.
McCown threw TD passes of 3 yards to Brian Hartline and 7 yards to Gary Barnidge. The first finished a 16-play, 80-yard drive featuring three third-down conversions. The second capped an 11-play, 78-yard series beginning the second half. Travis Benjamin also returned a punt 53 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.
Winston's longest completion, 26 yards to Vincent Jackson, led to Doug Martin's 19-yard touchdown run for the Bucs (1-2), who fizzled after an impressive showing against Cincinnati in their second preseason game.
The young quarterback started slowly for the second time in three games. He was sacked on Tampa Bay's first two possessions, then threw his second interception of the preseason on the last play of the opening quarter to set up a field goal that gave Cleveland a 17-0 lead.
One thing Winston is proving to be, though, is resilient.
The rookie took advantage of the starting offense's best field position of the night, connecting with Jackson crossing the middle of the field to the Browns 19. He then handed off to Martin, who broke a tackle and sped to the end zone to finish a two-play, 45-yard drive that trimmed Cleveland's lead to 17-7 in the second quarter.
Tampa Bay's other two scoring chances, one created by Winston and the other by backup Mike Glennon, ended with missed field goals.
The Browns' offense finally had two of its top playmakers in receiver Dwayne Bowe and rookie running back Duke Johnson, albeit for a short time.
Both players missed portions of camp and the first two preseason games with hamstring injuries. Johnson's status going forward was not immediately clear after leaving in the second quarter and being evaluated for what the Browns said was a concussion.
Johnson, expected to be a main cog in Cleveland's system, had one carry for 4 yards and one reception for 1 yard. McCown targeted Bowe three times in the first half, but the receiver didn't have any catches.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL