For a rookie, there’s nothing like a nationally-televised game to create an opportunity for attention. A rookie who seizes that chance suddenly earns the name recognition of a proven veteran.
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin did just that on Thursday night.
Martin rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown, and he added 79 through the air in a 36-17 win over the Vikings in Minnesota. The first-round pick’s 64-yard sprint with a screen pass on the first drive of the third quarter extended a 10-point lead to 27-10, and the Vikings never got within 13 after that — despite the foolish decision of Bucs left tackle Donald Penn to enrage defensive end Jared Allen by ripping off his helmet and putting a gash on the bridge of his nose.
The momentum was temporary, with a third-down sack on the next play from Allen generating a din that disappeared quickly once the Vikings got the ball back. The team simply doesn’t have much on offense beyond Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, and life for the 5-3 team is about to get a lot more difficult. With a trip to Seattle and a home game against the Lions before a bye that will lead to a six-game stretch of Bears, Packers, Bears, Rams, Texans, Packers, that 5-2 start could easily translate to a 6-10 finish.
For Tampa, it was the first road win since their last visit to the Metrodome, in September 2011. It also lifts the Buccaneers to 3-4 on the season, putting them in the chase for a wild-card berth.
And it gives them a critical head-to-head tiebreaker against the Vikings, if the Vikings somehow don’t play like they did tonight for the rest of the season.