"We were really excited after that game," Jones said on Wednesday at Halas Hall. "For us to finally be able to win that first playoff game, it meant a lot to us. Especially the way we won it - in overtime. It was a great game. We fought hard to the end. We we're definitely excited after the game [and] on into Sunday night."
But after one evening of elation, Jones and the rest of the Bears got back to the business of continuing their march to Super Bowl XLI.
"The next day I was really starting to focus on the Saints," he said. "And I think a lot of team feels the same way. We're still not satisfied with our season, and we're still not satisfied with what we've done yet."
The Monsters of the Midway faced a similar scenario just a year ago. After handily defeating Carolina 13-3 in the regular season, the Panthers came back to Chicago in the divisional round of the playoffs and emerged with a 29-21 upset victory. The Seahawks were smoked 37-6 back in Week 4, but they gave the Bears everything they could handle in the rematch before finally falling 27-24.
Jones believes those bitter memories helped to motivate his squad and made Sunday's win that much sweeter.
"Last year," he said, "the way that we lost to Carolina was very tough for everybody on our team and the coaches, and that was a feeling that we didn't want to have again. So obviously, we definitely felt a little more excited about winning that game than just a regular season game."
With New Orleans marching in to town for the NFC Championship Game, the running game for both teams is a primary focus.
For the Bears, Jones paired with Cedric Benson to form one of the more potent one-two tailback tandems in the NFL. Jones rushed for a team-high 1,210 yards - he's the first Midway Monster since Neal Anderson in 1989-90 to crack 1,000 yards two consecutive seasons - while Benson got stronger down the stretch and finished with 647 yards of his own. After all the speculation back in training camp as to who deserved to be the starter, offensive coordinator Ron Turner did an admirable job feeding the ball to both of his top runners.
With Reggie Bush falling in their laps at this past April's NFL Draft, the Saints suddenly had both he and Deuce McAllister at their disposal. McAllister recovered from last season's knee injury to rush for 1,057 yards, and Bush chipped in with 565 yards on the ground and 88 catches out of the backfield. While Jones and Benson never saw action at the same time, McAllister and Bush were on the field together quite frequently.
Jones got the overwhelming majority of the carries his first two years in Chicago, but now he sees the advantages of having more than one top-flight tailback on the roster.
"It helps to have a couple backs," he said, "especially over a 16-game season. You get nicked up and things like that. And having an extra back that's fresh, it's hard for a defense to adjust to that."
Fullback Jason McKie has paved the way for both Jones and Benson in 2006, and he believes the two of them could have success in the same backfield - just like McAllister and Bush - even though it would undoubtedly cut into his own playing time.
"If you look at the way the Saints do it, Reggie Bush, he's split out one-on-one on a linebacker," McKie said. "I see Thomas Jones filling that same role because he's a great receiver coming out of the backfield. He runs good routes. So I think it would be a good thing having both of them on the field at the same time. It would definitely keep defenses on their heels. As far as what they would expect, you put a linebacker one-on-one against Thomas Jones, I'd take Thomas Jones any day."
So would Jones like to line up next to Benson from time to time?
"That's something the coaches would have to come up with."