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ORCHARD PARK Cheap Ed Oliver Jersey , N.Y. (AP) — Thurman Thomas was in the midst of getting taped up before a Bills game at Chicago during his rookie season in 1988 when the running back recognized the unmistakable voice of one of his teenage idols, Walter Payton.“I can still hear it,” Thomas recalled, before attempting to imitate Payton. “Yeah, a high-pitched voice like that: ‘Where’s that little No. 34?'”Thomas certainly knew who Payton was, given the Bears‘ just-retired star running back was one of two people who inspired him to wear No. 34 since high school. The other was Oilers running back Earl Campbell, whom Thomas grew up rooting for in Houston; all three are Pro Football Hall of Famers now.What shocked him was someone such as Payton knowing Thomas even existed, never mind taking the time to search him out before the opening kickoff.“He’s walking in and everybody stopped, and it was just like, ‘Holy crap, it’s Walter Payton,'” Thomas said. “I’m still trying to figure out how he knew me. I mean, I’m in Buffalo. I’m a rookie. And he comes in and it’s, ‘Where’s 34?’“And I’m like, ‘I’m over here.'”It won’t be difficult to spot 34 at halftime of Buffalo’s home game against New England on Monday night. That’s when Thomas will become the third Bills player —joining former teammates quarterback Jim Kelly and defensive end Bruce Smith — to have his number retired.For all he accomplished during a 13-year Hall of Fame career, in which he was voted NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1991 and led the league in yards from scrimmage from 1989-92, Thomas considers this one of his most notable achievements.“The more I get closer to it, the more and more I feel like these butterflies are coming into my stomach,” he added. “And I’ve never really felt that way about a lot of things. But, definitely, this is one of them.”Thomas would have preferred being honored during an afternoon game rather than a prime-time spectacle.“I’m not Bruce,” he said, making a joke at the expense of Smith Red Ed Oliver Jersey , who had his No. 78 retired during a night game in 2016.His one concern is how the rebuilding and offensively challenged Bills, who have managed just 81 points in a 2-5 record, might fare against Tom Brady and the Patriots (5-2), who have won 31 of the past 36 meetings between the AFC East rivals.“I just wish we could have a better record,” he said.These are certainly not the Bills of Thomas’ 12-season tenure, which included Buffalo playing in four consecutive Super Bowls, losing them all.He previously suggested the Bills might have been cursed for cutting him, Smith and Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed after the 1999 season. What followed was a 17-year playoff drought, which finally ended last year.Perhaps, Thomas said, his mere presence might spur the Bills to be competitive. Bills veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams certainly hopes so.Williams and his wife treated Thomas and his wife to dinner last week, during which Thomas cited Williams as saying: “Hey, we’re going to do whatever we can to make that night even more special.”Williams didn’t deny being additionally motivated because of Thomas.“That’s the plan, right?” Williams said. “Sure, anybody who knows him, and knows the kind of guy he is, and what he meant and means to this franchise, I think it should motivate you.”The outcome is almost secondary to Thomas, who was busy reflecting back on a career in which his number has already been retired at high school and college.He was motivated to succeed at Oklahoma State once he began sharing the backfield with another eventual Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders.“He kept me on my heels. I couldn’t make any mistakes,” he said. “If we ran 10 sprints, I ran 11.”If it wasn’t for Thomas tearing a left knee ligament before his junior season, he wouldn’t have elected to return for his senior year Andre Reed Jersey Stitched , when he met his wife, Patti, who just happened to be from Buffalo. Some eight months later, the Bills selected him in the second round.His voice cracks with emotion when reminded no Bills player will ever wear No. 34 again. And no, Thomas said, no one should expect him to suit up one last time.“I’ve been asked that question a lot this week. Oh my gosh, I’m like, ‘People, I’m 52 years old. There’s no way in hell I can get out there and do this,” he said, before a brief pause.“Maybe,” Thomas said, breaking into a smile, “for 1 yard or something like that on the goal line.” Micah Hyde sees no reason why the Bills should apologize for taking advantage of a soft season-opening schedule.The Buffalo safety needed only to point to how the Bills have flipped their record, going from 2-6 a year ago to 6-2, following Sunday's 24-9 win over the Washington Redskins, who dropped to 1-8 in rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins' first career start."I'm done apologizing for wins," Hyde said. "I'm not too worried about the strength of schedule or anything like that. It starts with each and every week getting a win and we got that this week."Buffalo is off to its best start since going 7-1 in 1993. But skeptics can point out the Bills' six wins have come against teams that entered this weekend with a combined 7-31 record.The Bills didn't exactly ease concerns following an inconsistent performance against an opponent that has already changed coaches and turned to Haskins with starter Case Keenum in the NFL's concussion protocol.After leading 17-3 following its first three possessions, Buffalo allowed Washington to cut it to eight before rookie Devin Singletary scored on a 2-yard run with 2:21 left."Listen, we're a work in progress," coach Sean McDermott said. "We're 6-2 with a lot of games to play and we've got to continue to improve."Washington matched its worst start to a season since 1998. Its offense has now gone 13 quarters since scoring a touchdown, dating to Keenum's 33-yard TD to Terry McLaurin in a 17-16 win at Miami."It's frustrating. It's kind of the similar template to how we've been playing in recent weeks," interim coach Bill Callahan said. "We get in a position and whether it's a penalty or an incomplete pass or we get stuffed on a run Infant Jaquan Johnson Jersey , we don't make up, and we just don't close out a third-down red-zone play."Haskins was efficient in going 5 of 8 for 57 yards in the first half, when running back Adrian Peterson was exposing holes in Buffalo's suspect run defense by gaining 101 yards on 10 carries.But the Ohio State product was unable to fill the offensive void in the second half, when Peterson was limited to 7 yards on eight carries.Haskins finished 15 of 22 for 144 yards while Dustin Hopkins accounted for all of Washington's points with three field goals, the longest from 39 yards."We've got to score touchdowns. That's the key to the game," said Haskins, who received words of encouragement from Peterson."He talked to me before the game about taking ownership of this," Haskins said. "And even though we lost, I think we took a good step as far as me taking command of the offense."The Bills endured issues on both sides of the ball.Buffalo's run defense started the game by continuing its porous performance from a week earlier, when it allowed a season-worst 218 yards rushing in a 31-13 loss to Philadelphia.The defense responded in the second half by limiting Washington to 78 yards of offense and a field goal."It's a great way to bounce back after what happened last week and not let that hangover drag on to the next week," defensive end Jerry Hughes said.Josh Allen went 14 of 20 for 160 yards with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley and a 1-yard plunge.Up 17-9, the Bills finally put the game away in the final six minutes, starting with cornerback Tre'Davious White sacking Haskins for a 9-yard loss. That forced Washington to punt from its own 4 to set up Singletary's score on the following drive.Singletary finished with a season-best 95 yards rushing and 140 yards from scrimmage — the most since LeSean McCoy had 147 two years ago. The rookie took advantage of his most playing time this season, appearing to displace Frank Gore as Buffalo's featured running back.STUFFEDGore was stopped for no gain on three consecutive snaps from Washington's 1 before Allen scored on fourth down in the second quarter. Gore was stopped once again on fourth-and-1 at Washington's 24 to end Buffalo's first drive of the third quarter.It didn't get much better for Gore in the fourth quarter, when he was dropped for a 3-yard loss on third-and-1 from Buffalo's 31.HELLO AGAINBills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spent time following the game catching up with Peterson. Frazier was the Vikings defensive coordinator during Peterson's rookie season in 2007, and eventually took over as Minnesota's head coach."He reminded me once asking him what would it be like if I ever coached against him," Frazier said, laughing. "And he said, 'Be careful what you wish for.'"UP NEXTWashington: After a bye, host the New York Jets on Nov. 17.Buffalo: At the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 10.
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