Tom Brady and New England Patriots reach Super Bowl again to set up showdown with Los Angeles Rams
Sides will meet in Atlanta on February 3 after both won their Conference finals with overtime victories
Five-time champion Tom Brady guided the New England Patriots into their third consecutive Super Bowl on Sunday, where they will face a Los Angeles Rams squad that advanced through in dramatic but controversial fashion.
The only day in NFL play-off history with two over-time thrillers saw the Patriots win 37-31 at Kansas City Chiefs on Rex Burkhead's two-yard touchdown run in the AFC 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 Saints 26-23 thanks to Greg Zuerlein's 57-yard over-time field goal in the NFC final with their rally from 13-0 down the best in team play-off history.
"Unbelievable. Can't find the words," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "To be down 13-0, the defence to play the way they did. And our kicker made a 57-yard field goal. Unbelievable."
The victors will now meet at Super Bowl 53 on February 3 in Atlanta.
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 play-off 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 AFC final since 1986.
"The players just competed really hard today," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "You can't buy these. You've got to earn them and they earned this one."
New Orleans, 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. We'll probably never get over it."
The Saints received the ball to begin over-time but Rams linebacker Dante Fowler hit Brees as he threw and safety John Johnson picked off the awkward lob while falling onto his back, the lone New Orleans turnover setting up Zuerlein's winner.
"I was crying on the bench," said Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. "I've never been this excited."
Rams coach Sean McVay, who turns 33 on Thursday, became the youngest coach to reach the Super Bowl.
"It's a credit to the people you have around you," McVay said. "Our team demonstrated great mental toughness. It was a tough start. We had confidence and we got it done. It was a great win."
Updated: January 21, 2019 09:47 AM