MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Traveling to Minnesota to play on a 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 — including a career-high 135 rushing — 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 Josh Freeman’s three touchdown passes, to give Tampa Bay (3-4) a 27-10 lead 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.
“It’s hard to come from college to the NFL,” Martin said. “The speed of the game is definitely increased, and this is a feel thing. You’re looking for that rhythm, as a running back, getting comfortable in the offense and having that game-time experience. I’m definitely there, right where I need to be.”
Adrian Peterson had a season-long 64-yard run for a score that brought the Vikings (5-3) to 30-17, but his lost fumble in Minnesota territory in the second quarter led directly to a touchdown.
“It can get frustrating sometimes, but you can’t show that during the game. You’ve got to stay focused, stay resilient,” Peterson said. “I feel like we did that, but we just weren’t able to continue with it and stay on a roll with it.”
The Bucs, 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.
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.
“Ah, he is definitely an asset to our football team,” cornerback Ronde Barber said. “For a young guy to have that kind of vision, to have that kind of patience as a runner, it’s pretty impressive.”
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.
With two games apiece against division rivals Chicago and Green Bay plus road trips to Seattle and Houston in the second half of their schedule, the Vikings have quite the challenge waiting for them and their strong start after Thanksgiving.