Bucs pound Vikings on short week

Josh Freeman tosses three touchdowns in win

POSTED: 11:17 PM Oct 25 2012   UPDATED: 7:30 AM Oct 26 2012
Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet
MINNEAPOLIS -

A hot topic during the short NFL week was how hard it is for a team to travel for a Thursday night game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beg to differ.

Thanks to some gracious play by the sloppy Vikings, Tampa Bay beat up on Minnesota 36-17 Thursday. And the final score is not indicative of how soundly Tampa Bay played while winning on the road for the first time this season.

The Buccaneers (3-4) took advantage of Minnesota problems that included spotty offense, poor punting, turnovers and missed tackles, and they delivered the most convincing beating the Vikings have sustained this season. Minnesota (5-3) lost at home for the first time.

Tampa Bay rookie running back Doug Martin had run for 106 yards by halftime. He finished with 214 total yards from scrimmage, including a 64-yard catch-and-run early in the third quarter that gave the Buccaneers a 27-10 lead. His 1-yard TD run with 7:03 left in regulation capped the scoring.

Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams caught six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman started slowly and but still finished with 262 yards on 19-for-36 passing with three touchdowns.

That was more than enough against a Vikings team that continues to sputter on offense.

Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder finished 19-for-35 for 251 yards, a TD and an interception -- deceiving when you consider he had 134 passing yards through three quarters. Part of the problem was a Buccaneers pass rush that was in his face from start to finish.

Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had 90 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson had his second straight 100-yard game, running 15 times for 123 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that pulled Minnesota within 30-17 and gave the Vikings some brief hope.

The Buccaneers had a 10-point lead before Ponder had completed a pass and before the Vikings had achieved a first down. It was 13-0 before the Vikings sniffed enemy territory. By halftime, two bad punts and two lost fumbles by the Vikings led to a 20-10 Buccaneers lead.

The Vikings' offense started the game sputtering. Mix in consecutive poor punts by Chris Kluwe, and you have the recipe for digging a hole.

Kluwe's 20-yard shank on his second attempt gave the Buccaneers the ball at their 42. Two plays later, Martin burst up and to the left for 41 yards. The drive stalled, but Connor Barth hit the 28-yard field goal.

After another Minnesota drive went backward, Kluwe's 39-yard punt put the ball on the Vikings' 48. The Bucs made it 10-0 with an eight-play drive, with Freeman's 26-yard pass to Vincent Jackson on third-and-10 being the key. The drive ended with Freeman's 1-yard scoring pass to Erik Lorig.

On the ensuing drive, the Vikings got both a first down and a completion, but receiver Jerome Simpson fumbled the ball shortly after catching the pass. Taking the ball at their 46, the Bucs drove to the Vikings' 22. Barth connected on a 40-yard field goal, making it 13-0.

Finally the Vikings' offense got moving. Ponder hit Harvin on a bubble screen that became a 32-yard gain. Peterson ran for 11 yards. A roughing-the-passer penalty moved the ball to the Tampa 22. Three plays later, on third-and-6, Harvin beat Eric Wright, then hauled in Ponder's 18-yard pass in the end zone to cut the lead to 13-7.

The next Vikings possession ended when Ronde Barber stripped Peterson of the ball -- his first lost fumble since December 2010 -- giving Tampa Bay the ball at the Minnesota 37. Six plays later, on third-and-goal from the 3, Freeman hit Williams in the right corner of the end zone.

Minnesota drove for a 51-yard Blair Walsh field goal before the half ended.

NOTES: Former Vikings linebacker Matt Blair was inducted into the team's ring of honor at halftime of Thursday's game. Blair played all 12 seasons of his career with the Vikings, making six Pro Bowls and being named All-Pro once. He played in two Super Bowls. He becomes the 20th member of the ring of honor. ... There were no surprises in the Vikings' inactives. Rookie receiver Jarius Wright was inactive for the eighth time this season. ... The Buccaneers activated defensive end Da'Quan Bowers from the physically unable to perform list hours before the game. He injured his right Achilles tendon during offseason workouts in May.