MINNEAPOLIS – Traveling to Minnesota to play on Thursday night was supposed to be tough for Tampa Bay.
Rookie Doug Martin ran around the field as if he didn’t want to leave.
Martin racked up 214 total yards and two touchdowns, and the Buccaneers romped to a 36-17 victory to hand the Vikings their first home loss this season.
“It was pretty fun. I’m not going to lie,” said Martin, who took a screen pass 64 yards for a score, one of three touchdown passes thrown by Josh Freeman, to give Tampa Bay a 27-10 lead 81 seconds into the second half.
Then Martin, the No. 31 overall pick from Boise State, capped a drive of more than nine minutes with a 1-yard run into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to crush the comeback hopes for Minnesota (5-3).
Adrian Peterson had a season-long 64-yard run for a score that cut the Vikings’ deficit to 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led to a touchdown by the Buccaneers (3-4).
The Bucs, who became 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 Minnesota QB Christian Ponder with a heavy dose of blitzes.
Ponder finished 19-for-35 passing for 251 yards, one touchdown and an interception in the final minute.
With a 13-point lead, the Bucs could’ve gone conservative, but they refused to settle for a punt.
Starting at their own 13 with 1:12 to go 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.
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.
The Vikings’ first three possessions were three-and-outs, Ponder started 0-for-5, Jerome Simpson lost a fumble after a short catch near midfield. The Bucs turned that into the second of Connor Barth’s three field goals and a 13-0 lead.
Percy 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, after a spin move, had the ball stripped by veteran cornerback Ronde Barber. The Bucs got the ball at the Minnesota 37, and Williams made a catch in the corner of the end zone for a 3-yard score and a 20-7 lead.
The Buccaneers won two of new coach Greg Schiano’s first six games, but all four of their losses were by seven points or fewer.
Martin caught a screen pass and sped straight through the Vikings, escaping Chad Greenway’s tackle and not stopping until he reached the end zone. The Bucs used a three-and-out by the Vikings to add three more points and stretch the lead to 30-10.