Thurman Thomas finally got a chance to fulfill the role the Buffalo Bills envisioned for him when the season began.
The veteran running back made big plays running and catching the ball, but his performance was wasted in a devastating 34-33 loss to the St. Louis Rams Sunday.
"It's frustrating because we felt this was a time that we could put it all together on offense, defense and special teams," Thomas said. "To fall apart at the end, it was, not including the Super Bowls, probably one of the worst defeats I've been associated with."
The loss was by no fault of Thomas'.
Subbing for Antowain Smith, Thomas rushed for 32 yards on seven carries and scored on a 14-yard run to put the Bills up, 21-10, early in the third quarter. He added three catches for 46 yards, showing off the receiving skills that have not been utilized fully in recent years.
"That's what they're counting on me to do, especially on third down, to come in and pick up a first down," Thomas said.
He also tried to provide an emotional spark. After making a couple of key catches, he made animated gestures to signify a first down.
"I just felt it was an opportunity for me to get the crowd into it, to get the players more involved," Thomas said. "I thought I did it, but we got into the fourth quarter and just couldn't hold the lead. We're just making silly mistakes at the wrong time."
As for joining Andre Reed as the only non-kickers in Bills history to reach 500 points in a career, Thomas said the achievement doesn't mean a whole lot right now.
"Records are fine, but the bottom line is whether you win ball games or not," he said. "It's something I might reflect on after I retire, but right now the most important thing is to try and keep everybody's head up, try to come back and focus on the 49ers. We do have at least a week and a half to prepare for those guys, so we need to take advantage of it."
Two interceptions and a fumble recovery Sunday capped a memorable weekend for Bills free safety Kurt Schulz.
On Saturday, his wife, Susan, gave birth to their second child. Daniel David Schulz was born at 11 a.m. and weighed in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. The Schulz's also have a 2-year-old son, Patrick.
The Bills offensive linemen have been criticized a lot in recent weeks. On Sunday, they took shots at themselves after giving up nine sacks.
A couple of the sacks were the result of ill-advised scrambles by quarterback Rob Johnson. Two others came courtesy of an unusual NFL rule that rewards sacks even if the quarterback is tackled at the line of scrimmage.
But sacks are sacks, and through three games, the Bills have allowed a league-high 23.
"I think every single guy, myself included, has to be accountable for what happened out there," said right guard Joe Panos, who got beat by Rams defensive tackle D'Marco Farr for a sack. "We have to look at ourselves and ask how can we get better. Until we take stock in ourselves, we're not going to be where we want to be.
"A lot of the sacks were just mental breakdowns, not being in the right position. We've got to get our stuff together and take pride in our work from player 1 to 53."
Sam Gash's 5-yard touchdown catch from Johnson was the Bills' first first-quarter touchdown since Week 13 of last season. They had scored just 19 first-quarter points in their previous 18 games, worst in the NFL. . . . Tony Banks of the Rams became the 56th quarterback to be sacked by Bills defensive end Bruce Smith. Smith had two sacks in each of his three previous meetings against the Rams.
Several former Bills were on hand for the annual alumni weekend. Among those honored prior to kickoff were guard Billy Shaw, wide receiver Don Beebe, linebacker Darryl Talley, running back Joe Cribbs, linebacker Mike Stratton, guard Reggie McKenzie, tight end Pete Metzelaars, wide receiver Perry Tuttle, safety Leonard Smith and linebacker Shane Nelson. . . . Bills inactives were kicker Cole Ford, defensive back Ray Hill, fullback Pooh Bear Williams, guard Victor Allotey, tackle Marcus Spriggs, wide receiver Kamil Loud and special teams ace Mark Pike.