(Reuters) - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers upset the Minnesota Vikings with an impressive 36-17 win at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis on Thursday night, their first road win since September 2011.
Having given up a big lead against the New Orleans Saints last week, the Buccaneers ensured there would be no repeat by keeping the foot on the gas after rushing out to an early 13-0 advantage.
Quarterback Josh Freeman completed 19 of 36 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns but it was rookie running back Doug Martin who caught the eye, notching up two touchdowns with 135 yards on the ground and 79 yards from three pass receptions.
“It feels nice but I just did my job,” Martin told reporters.
”We just wanted to come out and play good Buc football and that includes running the ball.
“The line did a good job of opening holes and staying on blocks as well as the receivers staying on blocks. It opened up nicely for me.”
Freeman paid special tribute to Martin but made sure to spread the love to all of his team mates, who improved to 3-4 to jump to second in the NFC South.
“Doug is a gamer, I mean he practices extremely hard and prepares extremely hard but when the game comes the moment is never too big for Doug. He is a tremendous addition to our team,” he said.
”I thought it was great how our guys rebounded after the tough loss last Sunday.
“We lost a close one to a divisional rival in the Saints and it took a lot out of us but the way the guys came back and prepared throughout the week and ultimately came out tonight and executed, I’ve got to give it up to my team mates.”
A win for the Vikings would have given them a sixth victory in eight games and kept up their momentum in an extremely tight race for the NFC North lead.
Now at 5-3, the Vikings remain behind the Chicago Bears (5-1) and have given the Green Bay Packers (4-3) a chance to catch them in second place should they beat Jacksonville at home on Sunday.
“It’s really a tough loss for us,” Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier lamented.
“We definitely did not play good football in any phase. Credit to what Tampa did but we didn’t do a good job. I didn’t do a good job in getting our guys prepared for a game like this and we did not play well. We have to learn from it.”
To make matters worse, Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook left the field early with a suspected broken wrist which could rule him out for the season.
Reporting by Ben Everill in Los Angeles, editing by Nick Mulvenney