The Tampa Bay Buccaneers jumped out to a 13-0 first-half lead and received 135 rushing yards from first-round pick Doug Martin to beat the Minnesota Vikings 36-17 on Thursday night.
Tampa Bay used a 28-yard field goal by Connor Barth and a 1-yard touchdown reception by fullback Erik Lorig to jump out to a 10-point lead in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Buccaneers defense forced a pair of turnovers, including a rare fumble by Adrian Peterson, to extend their lead.
Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett forced a fumble by Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson that was recovered by Mason Foster. Ten plays and 32 yards later, Barth connected from 40 yards out to extend the lead to 13-0. The Vikings would respond with a quick five-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Percy Harvin made a nice adjustment to haul in a pass from Christian Ponder for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Vikings on the scoreboard.
Following a Buccaneers' three-and-out, the Vikings took possession at their own 13-yard line. Four plays later, Peterson would be stripped by Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber while fighting for extra yardage, with linebacker Quincy Black pouncing on the loose ball. For Peterson, it was the first fumble he had lost since Week 16 of the 2010 season. On the ensuing series, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman capped off a 37-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams to give the Buccaneers a 20-7 lead that the Vikings would cut to 20-10 on a 51-yard field goal by rookie kicker Blair Walsh with 1:45 to play in the first half.
The Buccaneers would get the first points of the second half, first on a 64-yard catch-and-run by Martin 1:21 into the third quarter and three more on a 38-yard field goal by Barth. Minnesota appeared poised to turn momentum in its favor when running back Adrian Peterson broke through a couple of arm tackles to scamper 64 yards for a touchdown that trimmed the Buccaneers' lead to 30-17 midway through the third quarter. Following a pair of three-and-outs, the Vikings and their Metrodome crowd received a shot of energy when defensive end Jared Allen and Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn were involved in a skirmish that left Allen with a cut on the bridge of his nose. Allen used the scuffle to his advantage, sacking Josh Freeman on the following play to force a punt.
Unfortunately, the Vikings offense was unable to follow suit, losing 8 yards before punting the ball back to the Buccaneers, who would drive 82 yards on 16 plays before sealing the game on a 1-yard run by Martin. Tampa Bay's offense chewed up over nine minutes of the game clock on the touchdown drive, making it a three-score game the Vikings offense was ill-equipped to erase.
With 32 touches for 214 total yards of offense, aiding in the Buccaneers' ability to own a decided advantage in time of possession (37:45 to 22:15), Martin was clearly the offensive star on a night where Freeman passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns, and the Buccaneers offensive line limited the Vikings' potent pass-rush to one sack.
"We just wanted to come out and run, you know, play Buc football," Martin told Alex Flanagan of the NFL Network following the game. "That includes running the ball and we did that very well. The line did a good job of opening holes and staying on blocks, as well as the receivers staying on blocks and it opened up nicely."
Martin outshined Peterson, who besides the costly fumble, had an impressive performance on Thursday night, gaining 123 yards on 15 carries. Unfortunately, second-year quarterback Christian Ponder struggled, completing 19 of 35 pass attempts for 251 yards with the touchdown to Harvin and a late interception by undrafted rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson.
"Adrian Peterson is a respectable dude. Great athlete," Martin said before breaking into smile, perhaps realizing that he had just outplayed the highest-paid running back in the league. "It feels nice, it feels nice. But I just did my job. I came out here, just did my job and, you know, you saw the game."
With the win, Tampa Bay's first on the road since Week 2 of the 2011 season — also over the Vikings — the Buccaneers improve to 3-4 on the season and will begin preparations for the long cross-country flight for their Nov. 4 game against the Oakland Raiders. For the Vikings, this was their first home loss of the season, but was their second loss in three weeks. The Vikings are now 5-3 on the season and have a road game against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 and a home meeting with the Detroit Lions in Week 10 before their bye week.
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