MINNEAPOLIS -- Right to the bitter end, Thurman Thomas held his ground.
In the wake of last night's thrashing at the hands of the Washington Redskins, Super Bowl XXVI's biggest pouter second-guessed the Buffalo Bills' offensive coaches and said that he didn't get the ball enough.
With Thomas, there are no concession speeches, only frontal assaults.
"I don't know what our offensive coaches were thinking," the veteran running back said after the Bills' 37-24 loss at the Metrodome. "I thought I should have been used more in the second half. We can't get away from our running game."
The Bills fell behind, 24-0, just 16 seconds into the third quarter and got away from a running game that had gained all of 8 yards in the first half.
Quarterback Jim Kelly threw a Super Bowl-record 58 times, completing 28 to the Bills and four to the Redskins. Kelly accounted for five Buffalo turnovers that resulted in 20 Washington points.
"When Jim has to throw 55, 60 times, we're not going to win," Thomas said.
And when Thomas can't find his helmet, he can't carry the ball. That basic truth became evident when he missed the Bills' first two offensive plays because someone had moved his helmet.
"I couldn't find it, I didn't know where it was," he said. "For some reason, somebody moved it. I was very upset. The first two plays were running plays, and I wasn't in there to get it."
It was an omen. His teammates did their best to make allowances for the NFL's most valuable player this season.
"It was unique," wide receiver James Lofton said of the disappearing helmet. "It happens to everybody during the course of a game. You put it down to get a drink. Most of the time, it turns up. He found it by third down, but by then it was too late for that series."
Coach Marv Levy said he was disturbed about the incident, "but that didn't affect the game one iota."
What affected the game was an endless streak of Buffalo mistakes in the first half. The Bills unraveled with two Kelly interceptions, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against wide receiver Andre Reed for slamming his helmet to the turf after no penalty call on an incompletion and a personal foul against linebacker Cornelius Bennett for hitting Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien in the face.
The unraveling followed a week in which Thomas and defensive end Bruce Smith took turns in the media spotlight with personal complaints. Thomas refused to blame the loss on distractions, though.
"What I said, what Bruce said, didn't have any effect," said Thomas. "We're going to speak, we're going to speak our minds. That was not a distraction. Ever since I've been in the league, I speak my mind. I'm not afraid to do that."
"I don't think anything leading up to the game was a factor," he said. "The factor was the guys in white uniforms. . . To make any excuses, to say we didn't play well, doesn't give them credit."
Thomas was never a factor in the game. He rushed 10 times for 13 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run, and caught four passes for 27 yards.
The Bills' running game ran into a stone wall of Redskins.
"We ran up the middle, and they jammed the middle," Thomas said. "I felt we should have run more plays outside. Maybe that would have loosened things up.
"[But] you've got to give credit to Washington's defense."
The Redskins ran inside blitzes against the Bills' no-huddle offense with great success. They sacked Kelly five times and took away the running game.
Kelly passed for 275 yards, most of it when the Bills were in a catch-up mode.
"It's tough any time to lose," Kelly said. "You've got to give credit where credit is due. They played one hell of a game.
"We, as an offensive team, didn't make the plays we usually make. Balls were there that we didn't catch, and blocks gave way. I wasn't shocked; we just didn't get the ball in the end zone."
It was the second straight Super Bowl loss for the Bills, who dropped a 20-19 heart-breaker a year ago to the New York Giants.
"Last year was probably more frustrating because we had an opportunity to win," Thomas said. "This year they pretty much did what they wanted to on offense and defense.
"We had the best record in the league the last two years and lost two Super Bowls. We've got the talent to win the Super Bowl, but once we get here, we can't do it. We've fallen into that category of Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings [multiple Super Bowl losers]."
Letting it fly
Jim Kelly's 58 passes broke the Super Bowl record for attempts. All four quarterbacks listed below played on losing teams:
QB, Team.. .. .. .. .. Year.. .. .. .. .. Co.-Att.
Jim Kelly, Buffalo.. .. XXVI.. .. .. .. .. .. 28-58
Dan Marino, Miami.. .. . XIX.. .. .. .. .. .. 29-50
Ron Jaworski, Phil... .. XV .. .. .. .. .. ..18-38
John Elway, Denver.. .. XXII.. .. .. .. .. .. 14-38