Only this time Thomas provided a spark for the Dolphins rather than the Bills, and he did it not so much with his running as with his taunting.
Thomas repeatedly talked trash to his former teammates, and Miami's defense backed him up with a smothering performance Sunday to beat the Bills 22-13.
"I'm 1-0 against the Bills. I'm happy," Thomas said. "Once I strapped it on today, everything I did for 12 years in Buffalo went out the window."
The Dolphins (5-1), picked by many to finish last in the division, moved into first place with their fourth consecutive victory and beat Buffalo for the first time in four meetings.
The Bills (2-3) lost their third game in a row, all to AFC East teams.
The Dolphins registered six sacks, scored a safety and clinched the victory when Sam Madison returned a fumble 20 yards for a score with 4:45 left. Trace Armstrong contributed 3 1/2 sacks and forced two fumbles.
The victory was especially sweet for Thomas, Buffalo's career rushing leader. Last week, he accused Holecek and two other Bills players of being disrespectful and admitted he holds a grudge.
"Thurman had a look in his eye all week," Madison said. "He was jacked up, and it's easy to feed off a guy like that. It gets us and the crowd fired up."
Thomas, at 34 playing mostly on third down, had a series of verbal exchanges with his former teammates on the way back to the huddle, particularly after big gains by Miami. After picking up 15 yards on a screen passThomas stepped in front of Holecek and signaled a first down with an exaggerated gesture.
"I guess all his talk worked for him," Holecek said. "I don't know why he felt like he had to create an enemy, but I guess I'm going to have to play the role."
Thomas, so often a Dolphins killer in the past, rushed for 24 yards in seven carries and added 26 yards on three receptions. That earned him a game ball from coach Dave Wannstedt.
"It's one I'll treasure," Thomas said. "Coach Wannstedt wanted to make the point that I'm part of this team now."
Despite Thomas' taunting, the Bills almost made him swallow his words.
A 24-yard pass interference penalty on Patrick Surtain set up Buffalo's only touchdown, which came on Sammy Morris' 3-yard run with 8:34 left to make it 15-13. It was the third touchdown and the first rushing score allowed by Miami this season.
The Bills got the ball back with 4:59 to go, but Surtain forced a fumble by Morris. Madison caught the fumble before it hit the ground and scored for a 22-13 lead.
"I didn't know he fumbled," Surtain said. "I just saw Sam doing his dance in the end zone and figured something good had happened."
Buffalo's Rob Johnson finished 11-for-26 for 178 yards with five sacks. He was harried repeatedly and finally knocked out of the game late in the fourth quarter when hit by Kenny Mixon after throwing a pass.
Doug Flutie replaced Johnson, drove the Bills to the Miami 31 and then had a pass intercepted by Jerry Wilson.
"We gave this game away," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said. "We were in a position to win against a team that hasn't given up many points."
Jay Fiedler directed a Miami offense that controlled the ball for 34 minutes. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 142 yards and one touchdown, a 20-yarder to Leslie Shepherd.
Miami punter Matt Turk pinned the Bills inside their 20-yard line four times, including a coffin-corner kick that rolled out at the 1. Two plays later, backup tackle Jermaine Haley slipped past center Jerry Ostroski to tackle Jonathan Linton on a dive play for a safety.
Olindo Mare improved to 9-for-9 on field goals this year, scoring fro30 and 33 yards for Miami. Buffalo's Steve Christie kicked field goals of 45 and 23 yards.
The Dolphins, who have a bye this week, overtook the New York Jets atop the AFC East.
"We're doing better than everyone expected us to do," linebacker Zach Thomas said. "I hope everybody just keeps writing us off."
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed