Five-time champion Tom Brady guided the New England Patriots into their third consecutive Super Bowl, where they will face a Los Angeles Rams squad that advanced Sunday in dramatic but controversial fashion.
The only day in NFL playoff history with two over-time thrillers saw the Patriots win 37-31 at Kansas City on Rex Burkhead's 2-yard touchdown run in the American Conference final.
"Over-time, on the road, against a great team, it required everything," Brady said. "This is crazy. That was a hell of a game. It's unbelievable."
The Rams edged host New Orleans 26-23 on Greg Zuerlein's club playoff record 57-yard over-time field goal in the National Conference final, their rally from 13-0 down the best in team playoff history.
"Unbelievable. Can't find the words," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "To be down 13-0, the defense to play the way they did. And our kicker made a 57-yard field goal. Unbelievable."
New England will face Los Angeles in Super Bowl 53 on February 3 in Atlanta in the NFL championship spectacular.
The Patriots seek their third title in five years in their ninth Super Bowl trip in 18 seasons under Brady, who at 41 could surpass 39-year-old Peyton Manning as the oldest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl and become the first to do it six times.
"It feels pretty sweet," Brady said. "We earned it and I'm really happy for us. It was awesome. What a game."
Brady became the first quarterback in NFL playoff history to go 3-0 in over-time, having won all three on the opening drive of the extra session.
This one came after four lead changes in the fourth quarter and a dramatic fightback drive by Kansas City to force the first extra-time American Conference final since 1986.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will not become the youngest Super Bowl champion quarterback at 23, but he served notice he could trade dramatic late-game drives with Brady, the sport's master of such heroics.
The Saints, meanwhile, were livid over the lack of a late-game penalty call when Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis on a third-down pass. New Orleans lost a chance to run down the clock and make a last-play short field goal try.
"They blew the call," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call."
"It's a tough way to lose a game, especially when you're in a position like that to win it," Payton said. "We'll probably never get over it."*AFP
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