When the Chiefs needed third-down stops in Sunday’s night’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, it was a rookie who stepped up to the task.
Linebacker Nick Bolton played well beyond his years on the big stage, with crucial plays throughout the Chiefs’ 42-36 overtime victory at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday night.
“We’re in the playoffs, of course, tougher football now where one mistake can change the game,” Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark said. “Nick’s just been continuing to show why he deserves to be a professional here with the Kansas City Chiefs and why he certainly should be considered one of the best rookies in NFL.”
Bolton’s first big moment of the evening came with the game knotted at 7 in the second quarter.
On third and 2, he sprinted to the line of scrimmage, bullied his way past wide receiver Gabriel Davis — who was attempting to block him — and pounced on running back Devin Singletary. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed got in on the action for good measure, with the pair combining for a loss of 2 on the play.
Facing fourth and 4, the Bills punted the ball away. On their ensuing possession, the Chiefs went 86 yards in 12 plays to take their first lead. The drive ended in a 2-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Byron Pringle.
Bolton came up with another key tackle on third down in the third quarter. In need of 2 yards, the Bills went to running back Isaiah McKenzie. Bolton was right there to take him down after a gain of just a yard. Facing fourth and 1 on their own 34-yard line, the Bills punted again.
And like before, the Chiefs’ next drive ended in a touchdown. This time it was a 25-yard rushing play by wide receiver Mecole Hardman to extend the home team’s lead to nine points, 23-14.
A second-round selection out of the University of Missouri, Bolton led the Chiefs in total tackles through the regular season, recording 112 — 70 unassisted. No other player on the team had more than 80 total.
Bolton continued to prove his value Sunday night, finishing with eight tackles — three unassisted and one for a loss.
“Nick’s been playing great football all season, Clark said. “It feels great just to be able to watch a young player coming into himself.”