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Sun., Mar. 08, 2015 1:30 PM PDT
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McCoy: "Next Man Up Mentality is Part of Our Team"
Melvin Ingram smiles when he's asked about his bold prediction now, but he was dead serious at the time. Nothing -- not even a freak ligament tear in his left knee -- would keep him from rejoining his team again.
"From the very first 30 seconds after he went down," remembered Mike McCoy, "He said, ‘Don’t worry coach, I’ll be back. I’ll play next year.’"
That determination to play through adversity and pain isn't unique to Ingram, though. Several Bolts who missed the earlier bout against the Bengals stayed focused, recovering in time to play huge roles in Sunday's playoff victory.
Consider that the Bolts were down a pair of outside linebackers when they hosted the Bengals in Week 13. Ingram was on the mend, and so was Jarret Johnson, who had to sport a cast to stabilize his injured hand just a few weeks ago.
Both came back and terrorized the Bengals this time around. Johnson tallied a sack in the third quarter and added several big plays to set the edge against a tough running team in the Bengals.
But the show truly belonged to Ingram, who consistently turned the corner and put heat on Dalton.
It was the type of pressure that the Bolts sorely missed in their first matchup against the Bengals. And in the fourth quarter, the player who was so hungry to return outwrestled a ball away for one of the game's biggest plays.
He shadowed Tyler Eifert in the flat and exploded on the ball once it left Dalton's hand. The ball sailed right to his hands for an interception that caused the sideline to erupt. Each player knew what Ingram fought through to work his way back to that game-turning moment.
Ingram and Johnson weren't the only ones who made their triumphant return in Bolts-Bengals Round II. No receiver accounted for more than 45 yards in the Week 13 matchup, so the return of its fourth-leading pass catcher was a welcomed sight today.
Eddie Royal, who missed practice all week, wasn't going to be denied in the Wild Card round. And Rivers was just as pleased to drop back behind a solidified offensive line, except the early loss of Nick Hardwick.
That's the first time we've had to go that long without Nick,” said Rivers. “It says a lot about that whole group.”
Rivers, a Pro Bowl quarterback, posted an 80.0 passer rating in Week 13 -- the lowest of his season. But the offensive line gelled since that matchup, due in large part to a rededication to Ryan Mathews and the power running game. Rivers was sacked only once as opposed to the two sacks and numerous pressures he experienced last time around. The Bolts running game flourished, too, with two rushing touchdowns and 183 rushing yards from its three-headed back attack.
Ronnie Brown put the exclamation point on that game with a 58-yard run that sealed a win. D.J. Fluker, who slid to left tackle in Week 13, delivered a monster block. So did King Dunlap, the returning left tackle, who tracked his man down and helped Brown run wild.
That next man up mentality is part of our team,” said a proud McCoy after the game. “I love this football team. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them as coaches.”