Before answering questions about the performance of his legs, Thurman Thomas made it a point to discuss the output from a certain opposing player's mouth.
"Anytime you have statements about how we can't run the ball and how they embarrassed us in the second week of the season, it always fires our guys up," the Buffalo Bills running back said after Sunday's 24-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins.
The "statements" to which Thomas referred were made by Dolphins defensive end Jeff Cross. They appeared in a Florida newspaper, and copies were distributed to each Bills player during the week.
"I think the offensive linemen just took it upon themselves that we were going to run the football and run it well," Thomas said.
And that is exactly what the Bills did, with Thomas rushing 30 times for 154 of the team's 206 yards on the ground. Among his carries was a 13-yard touchdown run, which put the game out of reach early in the fourth quarter.
It was Thomas' fifth 100-yard day on the ground this season and 12th of his three-year NFL career, while boosting his 1990 yardage total to a career-high 1,297.
"Cross went out and said not only we wouldn't, but we couldn't run the football," Bills center Kent Hull said. "But in the second half, I think maybe he wasn't saying that anymore."
Cross no doubt was thinking of the mere 44 rushing yards the Bills had in their 30-7 loss to the Dolphins Sept. 16 at Miami.
What he didn't consider, however, was the vast improvement in the Bills' running game since then. He also failed to take into account the fact that, with quarterback Jim Kelly out of the lineup, the Bills would make a concerted effort to move the ball on the ground to take pressure off Frank Reich.
"Watching film this week and seeing that Washington, the Giants and the Raiders were able to run on them (the Dolphins), we figured if we could execute right, we were going to be able to that, too," offensive guard Jim Ritcher said.
What about the fact the Bills hadn't run with any great authority for most of their last four games?
"We didn't have to run, because we were moving the ball so well throwing it," Hull said. "But today we felt we needed to run the ball, loosen them up a little bit and Frank did a great job (calling audibles from pass to run plays). He had us in the perfect play every time."
"Today, I think we could have run the ball anywhere we wanted to," Thomas said. "Outside. Inside. We just did an excellent job blocking."
His linemen were equally complimentary.
"Just spectacular," Ritcher said. "When a guy runs hard, it's easy to block for him."
"Thurman ran as hard as I've seen in a long time," Hull said. "And the five guys up front appreciate it, too."
Thomas left the game late in the third quarter with back spasms. Trainers worked with him vigorously on the sidelines, and he returned later in the quarter to carry seven consecutive times for 46 yards, including the TD run.
With the game safely in hand, Thomas again retired to the sidelines before heading to the dressing room with 1:53 left to escape the mob scene on the field.
"My back just tightened up on me," Thomas said. "It wasn't anything serious."
The same couldn't be said of Cross' remarks.
"With a coach like Don Shula, I can't believe he would let his players say something like that," Thomas said. "He's a great coach, but I just can't see him letting his players mouth off like that.
"It does nothing but fire us up."