KC Chiefs Buffalo Bills: Nick Bolton analyzes the NFL playoffs

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When the Chiefs needed saves for a third down in Sunday night’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, a rookie took on the task.

Linebacker Nick Bolton has played well beyond his years on the big stage, with crucial plays throughout the Chiefs’ 42-36 overtime win 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 continues to show why he deserves to be a pro here with the Kansas City Chiefs and why he should definitely be considered one of the best rookies in the NFL.”

Bolton’s first big moment of the evening came with the game tied at 7 in the second quarter.

On third-and-second, he sprinted to the line of scrimmage, made his way past wide receiver Gabriel Davis – who was trying to block him – and lunged at running back Devin Singletary. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed got in on the action for good measure, with the pair combining for a 2 loss on the play.

Facing fourth and 4, the Bills kicked the ball. On their ensuing possession, the Chiefs rushed for 86 yards on 12 plays to take their first lead. The practice ended with a 2-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes to Byron Pringle.

Bolton found another key tackle on third down in the third quarter. Needing 2 yards, the Bills went to running back Isaiah McKenzie. Bolton was there to knock him down after a gain of just one yard. Facing fourth-and-1 on their own 34-yard line, the Bills punted again.

And just like before, the Chiefs’ next drive ended with a touchdown. This time it was a 25-yard rushing play from wide receiver Mecole Hardman to extend the home side’s lead to nine points, 23-14.

A second-round selection out of the University of Missouri, Bolton led the Chiefs in total tackles throughout the regular season, going 112–70 unassisted. No other player on the team had more than 80 overall.

Bolton continued to prove their worth on Sunday night, finishing with eight tackles – three unassisted and one for a loss.

“Nick has played great football all season,” Clark said. “It’s great to be able to watch a young player come into himself.”

This story was originally published January 23, 2022 9:01 p.m.

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Lila Bromberg covers the Missouri Tigers for the Kansas City Star. She graduated from the University of Maryland and was ranked the top college sports reporter in the nation by the Associated Press Sports Editors in 2021. In addition to covering the Terrapins for four years, Bromberg has worked for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports and USA. TODAY Sports.

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