KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs rookie linebacker Nick Bolton made his first career start Sunday at middle linebacker against the Tennessee Titans.
It was a daunting task facing former All-Pro running back Derrick Henry, who had rushed for more than 100 yards in five straight games and entered the game with an NFL-best 783 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns this season.
Bolton’s seen the field plenty during his first NFL season, but he’s seldom played in the middle, a spot many believe will be his ultimate home as a pro.
Veteran middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens’ triceps injury, which forced him out of a win Oct. 17 at the Washington Football Team and left him out Sunday at Tennessee, pressed Bolton — a second-round pick from the University of Missouri — into a new role.
“I took it like any other week, just going out there and trying to be the best person for our defense I can be,” Bolton said.
He was exceptional against the Titans, racking up with 15 total tackles, nine solo tackles and four tackles for a loss. All are career-highs for the former All-SEC tackling machine.
Bolton’s previous career-best was nine total tackles at Baltimore and at Washington. He entered the game with five tackles for loss on the season. He's struggled in pass protection at times playing out of position but seemed to adjust fine to play the "Mike" linebacker.
Despite the standout performance, Bolton deflected much of the credit after the 27-3 loss — a game in which Henry was bottled up for 86 yards on 29 carries, including no runs longer than 11 yards.
“There was an emphasis on stopping the run,” Bolton said. “We know what caliber of running back they had over there. So, our D line did great overall and allowed our linebackers to be downhill all day.”
Bolton said the defense was pleased to limit Henry’s explosive runs and force Tennessee to pass more, but “we’ve just got to get off the field on third down.”
“I feel like we played pretty good on first and second down in the first half,” Bolton said. “We’ve just got to get off the field on third downs.”