Special teams makes or breaks
Over the last six weeks, as the Chiefs have accelerated to the front of the AFC West, we all saw how important special teams has been to the team’s success. Harrison Butker has converted long field goal attempts of 50-plus yards. Coverage units have made incredible open-field tackles to pin an opponent deep. Tommy Townsend has even won Special Teams Player of the Week in this stretch with his powerful leg.
On the contrary, the Chiefs saw how special teams can cause things to fall apart as well. The Chiefs offense stalled when Byron Pringle decided to bring the ball out of the end zone on a second quarter kickoff return for minimal gain. The opening kickoff by Harrison Butker saw Andre Roberts return the ball 75 yards due to poor tackling and angles. A shanked punt by Townsend gave the Chargers excellent field position before halftime.
Going forward, the Chiefs are going to have to shore up the mistakes on special teams and get back to the level of execution they’ve exhibited for most of the season’s second half.
Nick Bolton is going to be good
Nick Bolton was drafted with the Chiefs first official selection in the 2021 NFL Draft as a linebacker likely tasked with taking over Anthony Hitchens‘ role in 2022 and beyond. This season, he was supposed to gain some valuable reps as an understudy behind him and Willie Gay Jr. but injuries forced him onto the field with starter’s snaps and responsibilities from the beginning.
During his first few appearances, Bolton showed exactly what the Chiefs expected early on with a real nose for stuffing the run and tremendous tackling ability. Once Gay returned from injury, however, and Bolton then took over for Hitchens for a few games, he began to grow exponentially and improve in coverage to go with a penchant for making tackles in the opposing backfield. Just ask Derrick Henry.
These days, Bolton is relegated back to rotational reps behind both starters and even Ben Niemann as he learns, but with Gay out again this week, Bolton has been on the field more than normal. The end result has been several impressive tackles in space, a couple strong plays in coverage, and even standout pressure on Justin Herbert at times.
More than anything else, we just want to see more of the kid. Let him play. He’s certainly earned it.