Patriots, Rams to play in Super Bowl LIII

Both Championship games in the NFL go to overtime for the first time in NFL history

Brayton Wilson
January 21, 2019 - 7:51 am

Photo: Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports

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For the first time in National Football League history, both games in the Championship Round ended up going to overtime. In both cases, it was the visiting teams coming out of the games with punched tickets to the Super Bowl.

In the NFC Championship Game, the Los Angeles Rams took the New Orleans Saints to overtime at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and came away with a 26-23 victory.

After the Saints took an early 13-0 lead in the first, the Rams cut the deficit to just three before halftime. New Orleans got out to a 20-10 lead on their first possession of the third quarter, but Los Angeles responded with drive of their own, capped off by a Tyler Higbee one-yard touchdown reception from Jared Goff.

The Rams went on to tie the game with 5:03 to go in the fourth quarter, thanks to a 24-yard field goal from kicker Greg Zuerlien. Just 3:22 later, the Saints re-gained the lead with a 31-yard field goal from kicker Will Lutz with just 1:41 to go.

However, a controversial non-called happened the play before the go-ahead field goal that could have changed the outcome of the game completely. On a 3rd-and-10 at the Rams' 13-yard line, Saints quarterback Drew Brees attempted a pass towards the sidelines for wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. At first look, it appeared that Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman made a bang-bang play to defend the pass by taking out Lewis with a hit as the ball got to the receiver. However, upon watching the replay, it shows Robey-Coleman interfering with Lewis before he had the chance to catch the ball, and that there was helmet-to-helmet contact on a defenseless receiver. It was enough for the league offices to call Saints head coach Sean Payton following the loss and notify him that the officials missed the call on that play.

On the ensuing Rams drive, they took the ball down the field and set up Zuerlien to tie the game with a 48-yard field goal with 15-seconds to go.

The Saints received the kickoff to start overtime, but just 57-seconds into overtime, Brees threw a floater after he was hit by Rams pass rusher Dante Fowler, Jr. as he let go of the ball. After sitting in the air for a few seconds, Rams safety John Johnson III came up with the interception as he was falling to the ground on his back.

Just five plays later, Zuerlien was set up to win the game with a 57-yard field goal to send the Rams to their fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. His kick went perfectly through the uprights to down the Saints and help clinch the NFC title for the Rams.

Later on Sunday, the New England Patriots captured a 37-31 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to clinch the AFC title. This win helped the Patriots secure their spot in their 11th Super Bowl in franchise history, and ninth Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

New England went into the half with a 14-0 lead on the Chiefs on the road, but the home team responded immediately with a four-play, 74-yard drive that resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Patrick Mahomes to tight end Travis Kelce.

After the Patriots added a field goal in third quarter to make it a 10-point game, the Chiefs kicked off a 24-point effort in the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to running back Damien Williams. Williams scored his second touchdown of the quarter with 7:45 remaining on a 23-yard passing play to give the Chiefs their first lead of the night, 21-17.

The Patriots marched down the field on their next drive to re-take the lead on a 10-yard run on a 4th-and-1 play by running back Sony Michel. The lead didn't last long as Williams found the endzone for a third time in the fourth quarter with a two-yard touchdown run with 2:03 to go.

The lead changed again just 1:24 later as the Patriots' run game finds the endzone again. This time, it was Rex Burkhead punching in a four-yard run to give New England the 31-28 lead with 39-seconds left. However, it took the Chiefs just four plays and 31-seconds later to tie the game and force overtime with a 39-yard field goal from kicker Harrison Butker.

After winning the coin toss and electing to receive the ball to start overtime, New England went to work on their game-winning drive. The Chiefs had the chance to stop the Patriots on three separate third down plays, but Brady was able to connect on three critical passing plays to keep the drive alive.

The final play of the game came on a 2nd-and-goal play at the Chiefs' two-yard line when Burkhead got the carry again. He was able to find a hole created by fullback James Develin to win the game for the Patriots.

It will be the third consecutive season the Patriots will play for a Super Bowl title, which marks the first time a team made the Super Bowl in three straight years since the Buffalo Bills went to four consecutive Super Bowls from 1991 to 1994.

Super Bowl LIII will take place on Sunday, February 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and can be heard on WGR Sports Radio 550.

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