It’s a rush as former Charger Melvin Ingram III is one step away from Super Bowl with Chiefs
The text arrived early in the second quarter, the sender simply too fired up to wait until after the game.
Uchenna Nwosu knew Melvin Ingram III was busy at the time, playing defensive end for Kansas City in what would become an epic-plus 42-36 overtime victory over Buffalo.
Ingram, Nwosu’s former teammate with the Chargers, had just strip-sacked Josh Allen, forcing the Bills into a fourth down and Nwosu into a texting frenzy.
“I was hyped for him because this is what he worked so hard for, to be in this position,” Nwosu said a few days later. “I’m happy to see him reach this level. I just hope now he gets that Super Bowl.”
Ingram and the Chiefs are just one step away from the title game, Cincinnati coming to Arrowhead Stadium for the AFC championship game Sunday. The winner advances to Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams loaded their roster with stars to win the Super Bowl on home turf this year, but they must beat the rival San Francisco 49ers to get there.
A 2012 first-round pick who became a three-time Pro Bowl player, Ingram, 32, spent nine years as a Charger.
With Nwosu ready as a developing pass-rushing replacement, the team permitted Ingram to leave via free agency after last season.
He signed with Pittsburgh, but things didn’t work out. The Steelers traded Ingram to the Chiefs in early November, a sixth-round pick the price of an upgrade that proved significant.
After opening 3-4 thanks in part to a break-but-don’t-bend defense that held only one opponent to fewer than 27 points, Kansas City was about to turn much stingier. Ingram’s arrival contributed to the improvement.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo cited Ingram’s style of “playing angry.” Tackle Chris Jones said Ingram’s attitude alone provided a lift. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, noting Ingram’s glaring presence, called him “a guy that we feed off.”
“He’s a true leader,” Nwosu said. “That’s a great way to explain it — a true leader. He’s a guy who inspires me to try to be great.”
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Against the Bengals, Ingram will face a quarterback who was sacked nine times last weekend. Despite all the unrest, Joe Burrow threw for 348 yards and Cincinnati beat Tennessee 19-16.
Since their rocky start, the Chiefs are 11-1. That lone loss came against the Bengals, on the road, just four weeks ago, 34-31. Cincinnati trailed by two touchdowns three times before prevailing.
Burrow put the game away with a 15-play, 74-yard drive that consumed the final 6 minutes, 1 second and ended with a 20-yard field goal by Evan McPherson.
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Burrow finished that day with 446 yards passing and four touchdowns. Ja’Marr Chase had 11 receptions — almost all of them contested — for 266 of those yards and three of those touchdowns.
“We never take him for granted,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said of Burrow. “But there really are a lot of impressive things he does that maybe aren’t as impressive to us anymore because we’re used to it. That’s kind of his standard, his greatness.”
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Burrow has admitted recently to tiring of the underdog narrative surrounding a Cincinnati team that’s projected to lose by a touchdown Sunday and was picked by many to finish fourth in the AFC North this season.
The Bengals opened the season as 80-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl. In mid-December, they were 7-6 and had lost consecutive home games to the Chargers and San Francisco 49ers.
But Cincinnati’s only defeat since came in a meaningless regular-season finale. The Bengals have rallied behind a turnover-forcing defense and a ball-securing Burrow, who has 17 touchdown passes with one interception over six games.
“He’s super in control when the game’s on the line,” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said. “It’s like he gets even better. When the defense is out there, he’s more anxious. Once we actually get on the field, he’s super calm.”
It will be up to Ingram and the rest of the Chiefs’ pass rush to disrupt Burrow, one way to potentially end this march to what would be Cincinnati’s first Super Bowl appearance in more than three decades.
Before this month, Ingram hadn’t been in the playoffs since after the 2018 season, when the Chargers won in the wild-card round at Baltimore before losing the next weekend in New England.
He had a fumble recovery in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory over the Ravens. The turnover came when Lamar Jackson was sacked by a rookie named Uchenna Nwosu.
“Melvin taught me all the tricks, all the ins and outs to get better, on and off the field,” Nwosu said. “He was awesome with me. It was a blessing just to be around him. That’s why I’m rooting for him now.”
And why he’s texting him, two football players no longer sharing the huddle but still able to share the experience.
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