The Bucs may have found a star in the making in first-round running back Doug Martin, and Thursday night on National TV they showed him off in a big way in a blowout win over the 5-3 Vikings.
Martin, getting seen by many for the first time, blew past the normally tough Vikings D for 214 total yards, including a 64-yard screen pass for a score as the Bucs beat Minnesota 36-17.
QB Josh Freeman threw three touchdown passes for Tampa Bay, which at one point had a commanding 27-10 lead 1:21 into the second half.
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 crush the comeback opportunity for the Vikings, who now fall to 5-3 on the season.
The Bucs, who blew a 14-0 lead last week at home to the Saints, jump to 3-4 with the win.
Adrian Peterson had a season-long 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings to 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a touchdown by the Buccaneers that put them up 20-7 when Freeman hit Mike Williams with a short TD.
Christian Ponder once again had a rough night for the Vikings, but credit the Bucs D for that, as he was hit with a ton of blitzes. He wrapped up the night 19 for 35 for 251 yards, one touchdown and a late interception at the end of a desperation drive.
Freeman played well for Tampa, going 19 for 36 for 262 yards and did not turn the ball over. 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.
Tampa’s D controlled the game early, as the Vikings first three possessions were all three-and-outs. Ponder began the game 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 took 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, 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 veteran cornerback Ronde 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.
It was more than enough, as Martin ran for 135 yards on 29 carries, and added 79 yards on three grabs. The Bucs will get 10 days to enjoy the win, then travel to play the Raiders in Oakland on November 4th.