When the Kansas City Chiefs first selected Nick Bolton as their first of two selections in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the impact was supposed to be a full year away. Fortunately, he was ready for the team to lean on him far earlier than expected.
In a season in which Bolton was supposed to largely serve as a young understudy behind Anthony Hitchens in a burgeoning linebacking corps, Bolton has instead not only been tasked with playing in every single game but he’s also been pushed into a starting role in several. In fact, he’s started the vast majority of games this season for K.C. and the team has been all the better for it, including on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
Bolton’s body of experience is extensive now and he’s no longer a green rookie who needs to make significant adjustments to make an impact. These days, he’s earned enough reps to allow his instincts to take over, which makes the Chiefs defense that much more dangerous.
Kansas City Chiefs rookie linebacker speaks about his first touchdown and the impact of adding Melvin Ingram to the defense.
On Sunday, the Chiefs needed a big play from the defense in order to regain momentum and pin down the Broncos who were holding a thin lead for the majority of the game despite having nothing official to gain from the win. That play came midway through the fourth quarter when the Broncos were marching once again. Suddenly their offensive series came to a screeching halt as Chiefs defensive end Melvin Ingram collided with Broncos running back Melvin Gordon. From there, the ball came loose and Bolton was there to secure it.
From that point, Bolton took the scoop-and-score to the house for an 86-yard fumble recovery return, the longest in the league this season
Just like that, the Chiefs were back in the lead and they would hold on to win their 12th and final game of the regular season, including their 13th straight game against the Broncos. After the game, Bolton spoke to reporters about the play that changed the momentum and brought about the victory.
“I was just coming off the edge. Coach Spags called a great blitz. Our d-lineman, Melvin Ingram, went ahead and got critical penetration. Got a TFL. Caused a fumble. From then on, it’s just scoop-and-score. Some teammates gave me some great blocks heading into the end zone. I was just trying to get into the end zone from there.”
Given that Ingram was responsible for the initial hit—a stick hit!—on Gordon, reporters went on to ask Bolton about the veteran addition for whom the Chiefs traded at midseason.
“Melvin, ever since he came in here, has been great vet in the room,” said Bolton. “[He’s] coming in every single day trying to get better. He’s trying to improve himself and help our defense become better. Having a guy like that come in midseason and bringing what he brings to a football team is special. He keeps going out there and making plays and communicating, getting us in the best position possible as well. That’s a credit for him to come in midseason and do that.”
For Bolton, who now leads the Chiefs in tackles as a rookie, Ingram’s preparation is something to model and that idea of personal betterment is something Bolton said he’s wanted to chase all along as he transitioned to a career in the pros.
“Coming in, I just wanted to be the best version of myself every single week. That’s what my mindset was coming into OTAs, training camp, and then on into the season. I’m going to keep doing that and let the rest take care of itself. I’m not chasing stats. I’m just chasing wins. That’s what the mindset is is to win every week and try to win a championship from here on out.”