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Last Article Written: November 28, 1999


According To Thomas, "The Opportunity Is Now"


By Mike Devitt


Of the 47 players currently on the Colts' roster, barely a third of them -- 17 -- have at least one game of playoff experience. Of that 17, an even ten have played in either an AFC or NFC championship game, and two have made it all the way to the Super Bowl.

Only one player on the Colts, however, has ever played for a Super Bowl champion. That honor goes to defensive end Mark Thomas, who earned his championship ring five seasons ago as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Now in his eighth year in the league, Thomas knows what it takes to succeed in the NFL, and he's eager to have the opportunity to play on a championship-caliber team again.

Although he did not start for Indianapolis on Sunday, Thomas played a big part in the Colts' 13-6 win over the New York Jets, registering three solo tackles and two quarterback hurries. Following the win, Thomas took a few moments to conduct an interview on ESPN Radio and spoke on a variety of subjects, including the difficulty of tackling Jet quarterback Ray Lucas and the team's chances in the postseason.

Mark Thomas On:

On the game's final score of 13-6:

"They (the Jets) really do have a good defense. They gave us problems last time. They've got schemes over there and players over there, and despite their record, they're a good team. They beat two good teams the last two weeks. We talked all week: 'Hey, this is going to be a defensive battle, we've got to go out there and play, don't give up the big chunks,' and that's the key. We're not giving up a lot of big plays, a lot of big runs or big passes. We make them fight for every yard they get."

On Ray Lucas and the Jets' game plan:

"I think they're running a conservative approach, but they're doing it well. Any time you can execute your game plan -- if it's throw the ball deep 20 times a game, or dink-and-dunk -- it doesn't matter if you're doing it well, and that's what he was doing. He wasn't turning the ball over. He wasn't making any mistakes or anything that put them in bad positions.

"As far as the defensive line goes, this man can run. It's so frustrating as a lineman when you're trying to rush, and it really limits you when you have a guy who can run at any minute and go out anywhere. He can run up the middle; he can take it and go outside -- he ran by me about four times, and I thought I had him dead to rights."

On whether he thought the game would end up with such a low score:

At first I didn't think so, because I thought our offense was doing a great job of moving the ball. Unfortunately, we had a couple of turnovers that hurt us. (We had) first-and-goal at the one and got a little fluke tip. Any time you get turnovers in this league it's tough. It wasn't until the end of the game that we realized … we've just got to continue to go out every series and just get them off. Get the ball back to the offense and let them do what they do. Even though they didn't score a lot of points, they held the ball for a long time, and that was key, which is to control the ball on offense. We didn't give up the big plays on defense, we kept them out of the end zone, and we won the game."

On the Jets completing only one of 11 third down situations on Sunday:

"That's key. We talked intently about getting out off the field on third down. The key to that really is controlling first and second down runs, because if you get a team to third-and-five or more, it's hard to convert those in this league. If you let a team get to third-and-one, third-and-two, third-and-three, it's a little easier to convert, and I think that's what we did.

"We played our guts out tonight. We really did. I'm really proud of the guys. We fought to the very end, and we got a victory to show for it."

On the team's seven-game winning streak, and whether it's starting to sink that the Colts are nine and two:

"It's starting to. It's really to a point now where we're having a good time. But I'll tell you, we've got so much football left. We've got so many good teams: we've got Miami next week, and New England again, and Washington and Buffalo. It seems like it never ends … it's feasible that somebody could go ten and six in this division and not make the playoffs, so we've just got to go out and keep winning, and we control our own destiny at this point, so if we keep winning, everything will fall into place."

On when he first thought that the Colts were "pretty good":

"I think early in the year, as far as the offense goes. I think when we were playing New England, then I knew our offense was legit. I think we kind of got a little frustrated defensively with those two games we lost, because we really felt like we didn’t do near as well as we need to do. We should have won both those games, and defensively, we just didn’t get it done.

"But I think the next couple weeks after that -- the way we fought against the Jets and won some defensive games and really started playing like we needed to play -- I think that's when we started realizing we've got a good team, and we've got a great opportunity, and it would be a real shame to waste it. In this league, you can look and see, you can be a Super Bowl champion one year, and you can be at the bottom of your division the next.

"The opportunity is here. The opportunity is now. There's no next year, there's no two weeks from now. Right now, our biggest game of the season is next week against Miami."

* * *

Mike Devitt is a reporter for AllSports.com. He can be reached by e-mail at elpresidente@mindspring.com.


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