Everything was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headed into their Thursday night showdown with the Minnesota.
Playing on the road where they haven't won all season against a 5-2 team that was undefeated at home. And all this on a short week with little rest after a devastating last-second loss last Sunday.
For the third time in as many weeks, Freeman threw three touchdowns and finished with 262 yards on 19-of-36 passing. He become the first quarterback in franchise history to throw three touchdowns in three consecutive games.
Meanwhile, Martin was an absolute wrecking ball and nearly unstoppable in his first primetime game. The rookie finished with 214 total yards (135 rushing, 79 receiving) and scored two touchdowns, including a 64-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass. Martin also had a career-high 41-yard run in the first half.
The Bucs outplayed the Vikings on both sides of the ball and it was easier to see which team wanted it more on national television.
After each team exchanged some three-and-outs, Tampa Bay's offense got moving thanks to Martin, who ripped off a career-long 41-yard carry to get the Bucs inside the red zone. But Freeman overthrew wide receiver Mike Williams in the end zone on third down and the Bucs settled for a 28-yard Connor Barth field goal to go up 3-0 early in the first quarter.
The Bucs would shut down the Vikings' offense once again and get the ball back very quickly. The drive looked to be stalling until Vincent Jackson came up with a big-time catch in the middle of the field for a gain of 26 yards. A few plays later, Freeman threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to full back Erik Lorig off a beautiful play-action fake.
On the Vikings' next drive, things continued to get worse. Defensive end Michael Bennett stripped the ball from wide receiver Jerome Simpson and middle linebacker Mason Foster scooped it up after a scramble to give the Bucs possession at the Vikings' 46. Freeman would get the offense near the red zone and Tampa Bay added three points to its lead when Barth nailed a 40-yard field goal with 12:20 left in the second quarter.
Minnesota's offense would figure things fairly quickly on their next drive – get the ball to star wide out Percy Harvin. Harvin got the Vikings into Tampa Bay territory with a 32-yard catch-and-run on first down. A few plays later, Harvin would electrify the home crowd with a gorgeous over-the-shoulder catch over cornerback Eric Wright for an 18-yard touchdown to cut the Bucs' lead to 13-7.
The Bucs would force another turnover when free safety Ronde Barber came in and stripped running back Adrian Peterson, who finished with 123 rushing yards, while he was attempting to spin off Mark Barron. Linebacker Quincy Black pounced on the football to give the Bucs excellent field position in Vikings' territory. The Bucs continued to eat up yardage with Martin on the ground once they got the ball back, and got on the scoreboard again when Williams made an amazing tip-toe grab in the back of the end zone with rookie corner Josh Robinson draped all over him. Williams displayed excellent footwork on the catch and gave his team a 20-7 lead with his fourth TD grab on the season.
Tampa Bay would get the ball back with less than two minutes to go in the half, but could not get much going and went into the locker room with a 20-10 lead over Minnesota thanks in part to Martin's monster first half. The rookie first round pick had 14 carries for 106 yards in just two quarters.
Just five plays into the second half, Martin struck again with a huge catch-and-run for a 64-yard touchdown. Martin took the screen pass and made three or four Minnesota defenders miss as he raced past everyone for the score. That touchdown gave the Bucs a 27-10 lead early in the third quarter.
After their defense forced another three-and-out, the Bucs went back to work on offense and continued to ride Martin's hot hand down the field. They got just outside the red zone with a solid drive, and pushed the lead to 20 points after Barth easily nailed a 38-yard field goal.
However, it took just two plays for Minnesota to eat into that lead. Thanks to Peterson and an impressive 64-yard touchdown scamper, the Vikings found themselves down by only 13 points in a matter of seconds.
The Vikings continued to gain momentum after All Pro defensive end Jared Allen and left tackle Donald Penn got into a fight after a second down play. On the very next play, Allen beat Penn to the inside and sacked Freeman to force a punt. But the Bucs got some good fortune when quarterback Christian Ponder fumbled a third down snap and the Vikings were forced to punt after a three-and-out.
On the Bucs' next drive, Freeman put on a passing clinic on third down. He converted four third downs in a row, including a beautiful 34-yard deep toss to Williams to get the offense inside the red zone. From there, Martin would get his second touchdown of the night – this time a 1-yard run – when he continued to fight and churn his legs after running into Allen near the goal line. The Bucs went for a two-conversion to try and push the lead to 21 points, but they failed on the attempt and led 36-17 late in the game.
The Vikings would get the ball back a few more times, but time ran out on them when rookie Leonard Johnson picked off Ponder with 57 seconds left in the game and they lost for the first time at home all season to the Bucs, 36-17.
Tampa Bay moved to 3-4 on the season and became just the second team this year to win a Thursday night game on the road. Next up for the Bucs is a trip to Oakland next Sunday to take on the Raiders.
Related VideosReturning Soon!!!!
Short URL: http://sport-ne.ws/m0y