MINNEAPOLIS -- Right to the bitter end, Thurman Thomas held his controversial 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 -- surprise, surprise -- 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 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 unraveling followed a week in which Thomas and defensive end Bruce Smith took turns in the media spotlight with personal complaints. Thomas refused to attribute the loss to 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."
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.
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.
"We had the best record in the league the last two years and lost two Super Bowls," Thomas said. "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 the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings [multiple Super Bowl losers]."
* Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said the mixture of the defense was the key to stopping the Bills.
"We had a good mixture today," he said. "We dogged [blitzed] a little bit more than we have throughout the year. They weren't all-out dogs, but we had a good variety of things in our game plan. In my opinion, we had everything you could think of in it. It was like a pizza with olives, and onions and green peppers and everything you can think of. We dished it out with everything we had. We had a good scheme and the players did the work."
* Redskins coach Joe Gibbs tried to end any speculation that he's going to walk away from the game after winning his third Super Bowl.
"I have no thoughts about stepping away. I will do it again next year," he said.
There has been speculation that Gibbs' interest in sponsoring a NASCAR team might cause him to walk away, but he apparently isn't ready.
* Gibbs became the first coach to win Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks -- Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.
"They were all very different," he said.
Gibbs didn't say it, but the one constant was his coaching.
* Chuck Dickerson, the Bills' offensive line coach who apparently is trying to become the new Art Donovan, said jokingly last week that one of the weapons of offensive lineman Jim Lachey is his bad breath.
Lachey said: "That's just football. If everyone was boring like me, it wouldn't be any fun. Our coaches played the tape for us last night before our team meeting. It got us fired up a little bit."
As expected, Lachey kept Bruce Smith from getting a sack.