|The Road To Super Bowl LIII|
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The New England Patriots beat the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime to reach the Super Bowl for a third successive year in a historic night in the NFL.
Rex Burkhead ran in from two yards to set up a meeting with the LA Rams.
Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal gave the Rams a 26-23 overtime win as they beat the New Orleans Saints.
The Patriots and the Rams will meet at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday, 3 February.
It was the first time in the Super Bowl era that both the AFC and NFC Championship games have gone to overtime after Harrison Butker kicked a field-goal to bring the Chiefs level with 11 seconds remaining of the fourth quarter.
The Patriots started the extra period with the ball and 41-year-old Tom Brady, who will look to win a record sixth Super Bowl in Atlanta, took the Patriots down the field to set up the winning score.
New England’s ninth Super Bowl under head coach Bill Belichick will see them face a Rams team who they beat to win their first title in 2002.
Patriots survive Chiefs fightback
The Patriots, appearing in their eighth consecutive AFC Championship game, dominated the early stages of the match and led 14-0 at half-time.
However, the Chiefs responded in the second half with quarterback Patrick Mahomes throwing touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and Damien Williams to reduce the Patriots lead to 17-14 at the start of the final quarter.
A huge 38 points were scored in the fourth quarter as the Chiefs first took a 28-24 lead, before Mahomes was left with just 32 seconds on the clock to engineer another comeback.
The 23-year-old managed to take his team within field-goal range and Butker delivered from 39 yards, only for the Patriots to win it with the sole possession of overtime.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” said five-time champion Brady, who lost to the Eagles in last year’s showpiece.
“Kansas are explosive and they have been beating teams here all year. It was awesome, what a game.”
‘We’ll probably never get over it’
The Rams were behind throughout the NFC Championship game in New Orleans, only taking the lead for the first time through Zuerlein’s game-winning effort in overtime, after a controversial call denied the Saints a chance to win it.
Zuerlein kicked four field goals on the day while Rams quarterback Jared Goff recovered from an interception on his first possession to throw for 297 yards and one touchdown.
The hosts led 13-0 after the first quarter but a Todd Gurley touchdown run helped Los Angeles reduce the gap to 13-10 at half-time.
After the two teams traded touchdowns in the second half, the Saints found themselves deep in Rams territory and were denied a pass interference penalty which would have allowed them to run the clock down when receiver Tommylee Lewis was hit by safety Nickell Robey-Coleman before the ball arrived.
New Orleans coach Sean Payton said: “It’s tough to get over it.
“It was as obvious a call (as could be) and how two guys can look at that and come up and arrive with their decision, I don’t know.
“It happened though, so we can’t dwell on it. We’ll probably never get over it.”
After the non call, Goff was given enough time to take the Rams down the field and Zuerlein kicked successfully from 48 yards to make it 23-23 and take the game to overtime.
John Johnson’s crucial interception of Drew Brees at the start of the extra period allowed Zuerlein to hold his nerve again and send the Rams to their first Super Bowl since 2002.
“It’s unbelievable, man. I can’t put it into words,” said Rams quarterback Jared Goff.
“The defence played the way they did to force it to overtime. The defence gets a pick and Greg makes a 57-yarder to win it. That was good from about 70. Unbelievable.”