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A week ago, Thurman Thomas' halftime tirade helped ignite the Buffalo Bills to a win at Arizona. On Sunday, it was the venerable running back's performance that drove the team to a victory it had to have.

Evoking memories of great days gone by, Thomas rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries as the Bills defeated the New England Patriots, 13-10, in overtime.

"Man, that guy can flat-out play," offensive tackle John Fina said of Thomas, who enjoyed his most productive rushing performance since gaining 104 yards against the New York Jets in 1997. "Not only is Thurman a great player, he adds leadership out there and another dimension to our offense."

Thomas thought such games were behind him. His role has been reduced over the past three years, and this year he missed 11 straight games after suffering a lacerated liver on the first play of the season opener at Indianapolis.

But it was like old times for the 12th-year veteran as he provided a needed lift to a sagging Bills offense.

"It's great knowing that I can still do it, knowing that after all these years and even though my role has been reduced that I can still go out there and still perform at my best and still give this team a spark," Thomas said. "It was great to get in there and get a feel for how it used to be."

Thomas showed the explosive quickness of his younger years when he burst through a hole for a 31-yard run on first-and-20 in the first quarter to set up a 39-yard field goal by Steve Christie.

With Jonathan Linton struggling to gain yards and hold on to the football, Thomas was called on with the game on the line.

"I'm usually in the three-wide or two tight-end formation, but my (running backs) coach, Bishop Harris, came up to me and told me, 'Hey, whatever formation that we're in, you're in there. You're not coming out.' " Thomas said. "At that point and time, I said, 'Well, I guess I'm the guy from here on in no matter what happens.'

"I'm not used to running in a two-back offense. But the coaches wanted me in there and I just went in there and laid it all on the line. It feels good, but more than anything I'm glad to get a win out of this whole situation."

"He seems to be getting his timing," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "He's running the ball really well."

After all these years, Thomas still has an uncanny ability to squeeze his 5-foot-10, 198-pound body through the smallest holes. He showed his old elusiveness when he darted away from defenders for an 18-yard run into New England territory early in the fourth quarter.

Thomas would be the first to tell you he's not equipped to handle a heavy load for an entire year. But if there's one game to win, there is still some greatness left in his 33-year-old body.

"Thurman was amazing," quarterback Doug Flutie said. "He's smart and just makes good decisions. That's why he's stuck around as long as he has and done the things he has."

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