The Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LVIII in dramatic fashion, mounting another furious comeback and cementing their recent run of success as a dynasty worthy of inclusion with the NFL’s greatest. A portion of Missouri’s fanbase is thrilled with the result for their hometown gridiron gang, but all Tiger faithful — even those who do not count themselves among the KC partisans — are happy with the result, thanks to the two Mizzou legends on the roster.
The first is middle linebacker Nick Bolton, who led the game in tackles with 13 (five solo), finishing as the top tackler for a second straight Super Bowl. Bolton was everywhere on Sunday, but did not have as eventful a game as last season, when he scored one return touchdown and had another called back.
Honestly, it is probably a good thing that despite all of his box score-stuffing ways he is flying under the radar, because if San Francisco had pulled out the victory, Bolton might have been one of the goats. (Not GOATs.) Pass coverage has not been his strong suit throughout his career, but it has been especially bad this season and cratered in recent weeks. Kyle Shanahan’s gameplan attacked Bolton in coverage, and he gave up seven catches on all seven targets, for 101 yards allowed with four first downs and a touchdown too.
The Niners run a lot of tight formations and attack the middle of the field with their versatile skill corps, and they picked on Bolton badly when they found him in coverage. But Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo turned the Niners’ unique alignments against them, using the junked up middle of the field to bring creative blitzes from his secondary. Bolton’s strengths as a player unlock that defensive design, as his superb run discipline and tackling allow Spagnuolo to go deep into his bag of creative pressures.
While Bolton does have one glaring weakness on the field, there is no denying his excellence as a leader, a thinker, and a teammate. He became a team captain last year in only his second year in the league. Whenever Spagnuolo finds himself with a microphone in his face, he takes the time to praise his middle linebacker’s leadership, poise, and football IQ. Bolton is truly a quarterback for the defense, and makes all of Spags’ famously complicated blitzes possible. He is not a perfect player, but for the second year in a row, the Chiefs have a Super Bowl ring and would not have won it without his contributions.
The second Mizzou Tiger to win a piece of jewelry last night was quarterback Blaine Gabbert, now a two-time world champion. Unlike Bolton, the Chiefs absolutely could have won the big one without Gabbert. Sorry, it’s true. Brett Gabbert could have been the Chiefs' #2 QB this year and they would have been just fine.
Enjoying Bolton’s playoff runs the last two seasons has been a blast, but it also has me feeling a little wistful for the days when Mizzou players dotted the entire NFL scene. The stars of the 2013 offensive line are slowly winking out of the league, and while Tyler Badie and Larry Rountree III have popped on and off of rosters, it has mostly been a barren few years for pro prospects.
That all will change this upcoming season, as Mizzou could have multiple first-round draft picks and should have multiple players that project to be contributors on Sundays. And it does not stop there, as Luther Burden III has a chance to be the top receiver in the 2025 draft, with more teammates joining him. While the last few years have been dry, the Mizzou pipeline will be flowing again.
Congrats to Nick Bolton on another career highlight. It has been a joyous start to his NFL career, and he is rapidly becoming one of the bigger names in the league and one of the brightest stars on the Chiefs. But those roses were not without thorns, as the Niners effectively attacked Bolton’s weakness and also gave us a reminder of what we have been missing from Mizzou alumni recently. But Nick got the last laugh as he hoisted another Lombardi trophy, and maybe soon some other Tigers will join him on that stage.