Behind the rookie running back’s 214 yards from scrimmage and
The victory improved Tampa Bay’s record to 3-4 and marked their sixth straight win against the Vikings, who fell to 5-3. The Buccaneers have now won three consecutive contests in Minnesota, also prevailing in the Metrodome in 2005 and 2011.
Freeman threw scoring passes of 64 yards to Martin, three yards to
But it was Martin, the 31st pick in last April’s draft, who was most responsible for the Bucs’ offensive explosion. Surpassing 100 rushing yards before halftime, he finished with 135 yards on 29 carries, both career highs, while also catching three passes for 79 yards. He turned a short pass into a 64-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, then put the game away midway through the fourth period with a rugged one-yard TD run. That made him the first Buccaneer since Warrick Dunn in 2001 (vs. Tennessee, Oct. 14) to score on both a catch and a run in the same game.
Williams led the receivers with 68 yards on six catches, scoring on an impressive toe-tapping fade pass in the second quarter and turning in the biggest play of the fourth-quarter scoring drive with a leaping 34-yarder on the sideline. His big plays helped the Buccaneers rack up 416 total yards, as they surpassed 400 for the third straight game. That had never happened before in 37 seasons of Buccaneer football.
Tampa Bay’s defense had a fine outing, as well, especially against second-year QB Christian Ponder. Ponder completed 19 of 35 passes for 251 yards, with 127 of those yards coming on two late fourth-quarter drives after the game was out of reach and the Bucs were in a prevent. Ponder absorbed three sacks – one each by
It took a while for both offenses to find a rhythm. The Bucs’ defense forced a three-and-out on the game-opening possession by pressuring Ponder into two incompletions, and Freeman threw high on a third-and-six pass on the Bucs’ opening drive. Minnesota’s second drive was a carbon-copy of the first, with an impressive five-yard run by Peterson sandwiched by two Ponder incompletions, neither of them even close to a receiver.
The Bucs made good use of their second drive, however, thanks to a shanked Chris Kluwe punt that only went 20 yards to the Tampa Bay 42 and a 41-yard breakaway run by Martin. That put the ball at the Vikings’ 17, but the drive stalled at the 10 and
Another three-and-out forced by the Bucs’ defense, with Johnson breaking up a third-down pass to Michael Jenkins, gave the ball back to the offense at midfield.
The Vikings wisely decided to turn to Peterson on their next drive, and he broke off consecutive 11-yard runs to get it started. However, on the fourth play of the drive a short pass over the middle to WR Jerome Simpson attracted a gang of Buc tacklers and Bennett eventually stripped the football from Simpson’s hands. Foster recovered for Tampa Bay at the Bucs’ 46.
The Bucs also elected to go with their hot hand in the running game, and Martin started the ensuing drive with runs of 12 and eight yards. Martin also converted a key third-and-two with a hard-nosed draw play up the middle, and a pass in the flat to WR
The Vikings finally sprung Harvin on their next possession, throwing him a quick screen that he turned into a 32-yard gain thanks to some outstanding blocking at the line of scrimmage. A roughing-the-passer penalty on
The Bucs struck next, however, after Barber forced the game’s second turnover, punching it out of Peterson’s grasp at the Minnesota 37.
Te’o-Nesheim’s first sack as a Buccaneer nearly short-circuited Minnesota’s next drive, but Simpson out-battled CB
The Bucs’ decision to defer to the second half after winning the opening coin toss paid off quickly, as they needed just four plays to go 80 yards and increase their lead to 27-10. Most of that came on a short pass to Martin in the left flat, on which the rookie back accelerated suddenly between two tacklers and found himself in the open field for a 64-yard touchdown.
Tampa Bay’s defense came back with a quick three-and-out, helped by Barber’s stop of Peterson two yards in the backfield, and the Bucs wisely elected to keep feeding the ball to Martin. He ripped off gains of six and nine yards to get the ball into Minnesota territory, and a 12-yard grab over the middle by Williams got into field goal range. Barth finished the scoring drive with a 38-yard field goal to make it 30-10.
The Vikings weren’t ready to go down quietly, as Peterson finally broke one out into the open. His 64-yard touchdown breakaway was sprung by a key open-field block on Foster by Simpson, making it 30-17 halfway through the third quarter.
Minnesota kept the momentum going in its favor with a quick three-and-out, but the Bucs managed to slow it down with a stop of their own, keyed by Foster’s 10-yard sack of Ponder on first down. The teams traded punts one more time, essentially running out the rest of the third quarter. On Tampa Bay’s ensuing drive, Freeman twice stood in a collapsing pocket to convert long third downs and keep the clock moving with passes to Jackson and Underwood. Those were tosses into the flat, but on the next third down Freeman went deep down the sideline to Williams and the receiver made another amazing leaping catch while well-covered by the defender. Incredibly, Freeman found Williams once again on the next third down, hitting him across the middle for a first down at the five. Martin pounded it in on third-and-goal from the one, and a failed two-point try made it 36-17 with seven minutes to play.
The Vikings drove into Buccaneer territory after that as the defense pulled back to avoid giving up the big play. However, the drive came up empty when Te’o-Nesheim buried Ponder on a fourth-down pass attempt from the Bucs’ 19. Rushes of nine yards by
- The Buccaneers activated DE Da’Quan Bowers from the reserve/PUP list prior to Thursday’s outing. Bowers, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in May, played in the game, primarily on third-down pass-rushing situations. The Bucs’ seven inactives were CB
- Minnesota’s inactive players were QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, WR Jarius Wright, CB Brandon Burton, S Mistral Raymond, LB Audie Cole, G Mark Asper and TE John Carlson. Raymond and Carlson were out due to injury.
- Rookie CB Leonard Johnson made his first NFL start, opening the game as an extra-DB in a nickel package against Minnesota’s three-receiver set.
- Buccaneers punter and kickoff specialist
- With 135 rushing yards and 79 receiving yards, rookie RB Doug Martin became the first Buccaneer back to have over 200 yards from scrimmage since Warrick Dunn in 2000. Dunn racked up 221 yards against Dallas on Dec. 3 of that season.
- Michael Bennett’s fourth-quarter sack of Christian Ponder gave him 5.0 on the season as he continued to lead the team in that category.