By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Mere moments before kickoff at Soldier Field, the emotions finally set in for Josh McCown.

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The Buccaneers’ 35-year-old quarterback began to reflect on the organization that offered an opportunity that would resurrect his career. Had it not been for Chicago, McCown would not be Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, making $10 million over two years. But then the ball went in the air.

“Once the ball was kicked and we started playing, it was a football game,” McCown said.

It was just a football game between the Bears and Buccaneers — two teams, four quarters and 60 minutes that ended in a 21-13 win for Chicago. But the storylines were unavoidable. McCown was facing the team that gave him a chance. So was his coach, Lovie Smith, who spent nine years as Chicago’s coach before being fired after a 10-win season.

Smith tuned out the noise, as he always does before a game. The focus was on getting a win, not beating the Bears. After all, he’s had plenty of conversations with former players since his firing on New Year’s Eve of 2012.

“I wasn’t into family reunions or anything like that today,” Smith said. “I have lifetime friends here.”

The Buccaneers went about their business as best they could, head coach and starting quarterback included. McCown completed 25 of his 48 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown, but two interceptions and a pair of fumbles — one lost — proved to be costly. Each claimed the distractions weren’t a factor in their loss. It was just another game, and another loss for 2-9 Tampa Bay.

The reflection came later, starting with the postgame handshakes. McCown met with “a long list” of former teammates, including a special moment with close friend Jay Cutler, a conversation he preferred to keep private.

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Chicago’s players spoke with of genuine joy when referring to McCown. The admiration is mutual.

“There are good men in that locker room, really good men,” McCown said of the Bears. “I’m glad our lives crossed paths.”

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In the postgame scene, Smith shared sentiments with the Bears, too. As Chicago’s head coach, he won 81 regular-season games and took the team to a Super Bowl. None of that mattered when the Soldier Field clock hit zeroes and Tampa Bay lost its ninth game.

“A lot of great memories,” Smith said. “This is a bad memory, right now.”

The primary focus in the Tampa Bay losing locker room was how the Buccaneers turned the ball over four times to the Bears and missed out on an opportunity with a 10-0 halftime lead.

Smith and McCown claim it was just another game, but it became just another loss for the former Bears in Tampa Bay.

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“We needed a win in the worst way,” said Smith. “And we weren’t able to get it done.”