You've waited more than 400 days for this.
The Bucs arrived in Minnesota with very little and left with a boatload full in the wee hours of Friday morning.
Add seats to the bandwagon. This was huge. It was magnificent. It was a pure 60-minute infomercial for Buccaneer football as promised by Greg Schiano.
It was 36-17, and it could have been even bigger. But let's not get greedy.
What transpired Thursday night in front of a national television audience was the unveiling of Doug Martin. Now we can stop using that "P" word, as in potential. This was as real as it gets.
This was Martin running roughshod over a pretty good Viking defense. It was Martin showing his stuff. It was Martin making a believer out of everyone from Joe Fan in Minneapolis to Deion Sanders, Mike Mayock, LaDainian Tomlinson, Steve Mariucci and the rest of the NFL Network gang.
"I wanted to play Buc football," the soft-spoken Martin said after his conquest that saw him roll up 214 yards total offense, the fifth-best effort ever by a Buc.
Man, did he ever play some Buc football. He ran up, over, around and through the Viking defenders, and he took a screen from Josh Freeman and Muscle-Hamstered his way to a 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Stunning.
He was the workhorse, the bell cow, the bull, the bulldozer when he plowed into Jared Allen near the goal line and pushed the big galoot into the end zone. Superman, meet Muscle Hamster.
Speaking of Superman, Allen and the defense couldn't do much with the Buc offense. Freeman came through again—came through big—and made Buc history. Free threw for three touchdowns in each of the last three games. No Buc quarterback has ever done that.
Welcome to Buc football.
You've been frustrated, maybe too frustrated. Remember, this is a young team, and the good news is that Schiano is getting through to his guys. He's accomplishing his goal, and that is to teach this football team to get better each week.
No one saw this coming, not the Vikings and maybe not some of the Buc fans. I sure didn't. Short week, shorter turnaround, long trip, odds stacked mightily against road teams on Thursday night games.
You had a 5-2 Viking team and a lot of sassy Viking fans. The Bucs exposed them.
The Bucs defense swarmed Christian Ponder like a band of hungry sharks. The team that can't get sacks found three Thursday night.
For most of the night, Tampa Bay held Adrian Peterson in check. Yeah, he broke a long one for a 64-yard touchdown, which means on his other 14 carries he only picked up 59 yards. That's how you earn respect.
While Freeman clutch-played his way to a 104.2 quarterback rating, Ponder looked like a deer in the headlights more often than not.
It was a total team defensive effort, and it didn't hurt to have Da'Quan Bowers back. He made his presence known.
This was a physical brawl, and there was no better example than the MMA-like battle between Donald Penn and Jared Allen that left Allen with blood on the bridge of his nose. Sure, he sacked Freeman on the next play, but it was the only time Freeman was sacked.
That defense forced three Minnesota turnovers. Two came when needed, and they were converted into 10 points. The final one was a pick of Ponder by Leonard Johnson to end the Vikings' misery.
The Vikings were never in this one, really. There were times when they could have been, maybe clawed back in, but the Bucs wouldn't let them.
How about that 87-yard drive that started with about a minute left in the third quarter and ate up more than nine minutes and 16 plays? It ended with Martin playing front-end loader on Allen at the 1-yard line. That ends the Martin or Blount debate.
Freeman was clutch on that drive. He performed. He keeps getting better, and he credited Mike Sullivan, his offensive coordinator. Sullivan called a great game.
When it was over, no one was talking about Schiano being a college coach.
No one was bad-mouthing the Bucs.
It was just the opposite.
The reviews are in, and they are glowing.
That's typically what happens when a team plays the way the Bucs did, when players play the way Martin, Freeman and everyone else did on Thursday Night Football.
Welcome to the new Buccaneer football.
You've waited 402 days for it to arrive.
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