Two weeks ago, Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Doug Martin was the talk of the NFL.
Now, he's a rookie trying to make adjustments to the pro game.
The first-round draft pick out of Boise State was neutralized for the second consecutive game Sunday as the Broncos held Martin to only 56 yards in 18 carries.
"I've got to tip my hat to the Denver defense,'' said Martin, who gained 50 yards against Atlanta last week in 21 rushing attempts. "As a team, we have to make a lot of adjustments – and so do I.''
Martin also caught three passes for 42 yards on Sunday, bringing his season total yards from scrimmage to 1,480 – a franchise record for a rookie. Previously, Warrick Dunn held the mark at 1,440 yards.
Tampa Bay's failure to establish a credible ground game, however, forced Josh Freeman to attempt 40 passes in 61 offensive snaps against the Broncos.
"That's always No. 1 in my book,'' Broncos DT Kevin Vickerson said of shutting down the run. "We came out and did that today.''
In Week 9, Martin set a franchise rushing record with 251 yards in a victory at Oakland. He also become the first running back in NFL history to score on three touchdowns runs of 45 yards or more in a single game – scoring from 45, 67 and 70 yards, in addition to a 1-yard scoring run.
On Sunday, Martin's longest run was a 9-yard gain midway through the opening quarter.
"We've got to do a better job of getting Doug to the second level,'' Bucs LG Jeremy Zuttah said. "He's a tremendous talent and he's going to get a lot of attention every week.''
Two moves ahead
Several Tampa Bay defensive players lauded Denver QB Peyton Manning's ability to dictate rhythm and favorable matchups.
"He is so smart in his checks,'' Bucs safety Ronde Barber said after the only four-time MVP in league history threw for 242 yards and three TDs. "He figured us out kind of quickly. You try to sub and he's not letting you sub. We were trying to play that chess game with him and it's not easy to play that game. He's the best quarterback of my generation for a reason.''
Coming off neck surgery and a year off, Manning has already set a Denver single-season record with 29 TD passes. With 27 completions, he passed Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the second-most completions in NFL history behind Brett Favre.
"We didn't make the plays we needed to against a guy that good,'' Bucs DT Gerald McCoy said after the Broncos improved to 9-3 with their seventh consecutive win. "That's a very scary team right now. Nobody can match Manning's thinking. Against him, you play what you play and hope it's good enough.''
According to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan has expressed an interest in being the head football coach at Boston College, which fired Frank Spaziani last week.
Sullivan, who joined Greg Schiano's staff in February after eight years with the New York Giants, was not available for comment, but Schiano was asked about the report after Sunday's 31-23 loss to the Broncos.
"That kind of stuff I keep private with my assistant coaches and with our organization,'' Schiano said. "If there's anything to that, it will come out in the appropriate way. I don't think this is the place to talk about that.''
Give 'em credit
For eight seasons in Indianapolis, Bucs TE Dallas Clark was one of Denver QB Peyton Manning's clutch targets. On Sunday, he watched No. 18 operate from an opposing sideline.
"We didn't make the plays today,'' said Clark, whose 11-yard TD catch late in the opening quarter gave Tampa Bay it's only lead at 10-7. "Denver has some special players on the defensive side of the ball. We have not run the ball the last two weeks as well as we had been and every offense's dream is to have balance … the best of both worlds.''
After a slow start with his new team, Clark now has three TD receptions in his past four games.
Second-year DT Mitch Unrein had an afternoon to remember for the Broncos. Unrein opened the scoring by hauling in a 1-yard flip from Peyton Manning to cap Denver's first possession.
It marked the first offensive touchdown by a defensive lineman in Broncos history and was the first receiving score by an NFL defensive lineman since Buffalo's Ryan Denney on Sept. 27, 2009.
"I have never had a TD catch in my entire life,'' Unrein said. "It still is a little surreal. It felt like a really long time when that ball was floating toward me.''
Denver's 10-play drive was aided by three flags against the Bucs, who were penalized 11 times overall for 80 yards.
"Some of our guys would say to me, 'I don't think I did anything.' But they're not calling them for their health,'' said Schiano. "I mean, we did something.''
After showing off his hands and route-running skills, Unrein also displayed his pass-rushing ability on a key play. It was Unrein who came through unblocked in the decisive third quarter and forced Freeman into an interception that Pro Bowl LB Von Miller returned 26 yards for a score to put the Bucs in a 28-10 hole.
"I had a free run at the quarterback and luckily I got a little pressure on him,'' Unrein said.
The Broncos clinched their second consecutive division title with the win as Tampa Bay finished 3-1 against AFC opponents. …Bucs first-year CB LeQuan Lewis injured his left knee in the fourth quarter and left the stadium on crutches. …Tampa Bay was attempting to post four consecutive road wins in a season for the first time in franchise annals. …Aaron Morgan, who was promoted from the practice squad a month ago, played extensively at right defensive end when the Bucs were in their nickel package. …Tampa Bay has scored at least 22 points in nine consecutive games.