MINNEAPOLIS — After losing a bunch of close games, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally enjoyed a lopsided victory.
At Minnesota, no less, where the Vikings watched their home-field advantage come crumbling down during a romp by rookie Doug Martin.
Martin racked up 214 total yards — including a career-high 135 rushing — and two touchdowns, and the Buccaneers beat the Vikings 36-17 on Thursday night.
“We knew that the crowd was going to be loud,” Martin said. We prepared for that.”
The Vikings, on the other hand, were caught off guard.
“I didn’t do a good job of getting our guys prepared for this. We did not play well. That’s extremely obvious,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said.
Martin took a screen pass 64 yards for a score for Tampa Bay (3-4), one of Josh Freeman’s three touchdown passes, to stretch the lead to 27-10 just 1:21 into the second half. Then Martin, the first-round draft pick from Boise State, capped a drive of more than 9 minutes with a 1-yard muscle into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for Minnesota (5-3).
“He comes spittin’ out of there, and that’s what we believe he can do,” Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. “And I think he’s just getting better and better.”
Adrian Peterson had a season-high 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings within 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a Tampa Bay touchdown.
The Bucs, only the second visiting team to win on a Thursday night in seven games this season, revived their struggling pass rush with three sacks and flustered Christian Ponder with a heavy dose of blitzes. Ponder finished 19 for 35 for 251 yards, one touchdown and a late interception.
“It is frustrating when you have the momentum on your side and you can feel it shift,” Ponder said. “There are always momentum shifts in the game, and we’ve got to take advantage of them. We didn’t do that.”
With a 13-point lead, just trying to keep that clock running as quickly as possible, the Bucs could’ve gone conservative, but they refused to settle for a punt. Starting at their own 13 with 1:12 left in the third quarter, they plowed their way up the field — Freeman completed four third-and-long passes — and finished off the game with Martin’s third-and-goal touchdown run with 7:03 remaining.
“Tackling is just a mindset. Don’t get me wrong: That dude is a good running back. He runs hard as all can be. But we’ve got to tackle,” said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had their only sack.
Freeman went 19 for 36 for 262 yards and, most importantly, no turnovers. Mike Williams had one of the touchdowns and 68 yards on six receptions, and the Bucs held the ball for nearly 38 of the 60 minutes. Martin had a lot to do with that.
“Thursday night, nationally televised game and in the NFL it’s Doug’s first prime-time game. It’s a short week. You’ve got a lot going on, and Doug’s ready to go. The game’s never too big for Doug,” Freeman said.
After a rough start, Harvin finally gave the Vikings some life by grabbing a screen pass for a 32-yard gain and then pivoting to haul in sideline pass over his shoulder for an 18-yard touchdown catch.
But Peterson, who was having no trouble reaching the Tampa Bay secondary with almost every run through the line, had the ball stripped after a spin move by the veteran Barber. The Bucs got the ball at the Minnesota 37, and Williams made a tricky catch in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score and a 20-7 lead.
After blowing a 21-7 lead to New Orleans the week before, the Bucs finished strong this time.
“We were just a physical, nasty monster,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.
NOTES: The Vikings fell to 1-11 in their last 12 prime-time games, since the middle of the 2009 season. … The Bucs have averaged 464 yards of offense over their last three games. …. Ex-Vikings LB Matt Blair, who played on two of their Super Bowl teams, was added to the team’s “Ring of Honor” during a halftime ceremony. … Tampa Bay took DE DaQuan Bowers off the physically unable to perform list before the game.
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