The New England Patriots have booked their third-straight Super Bowl appearance after overcoming the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime.
The Pats will face the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL’s showpiece game after they too needed overtime to defeat the New Orleans Saints 26-23.
Tom Brady, looking for his sixth NFL championship, helped guide New England to the win with a 75-yard drive in overtime, capped by a Rex Burkhead two-yard rush as the side secured the AFC Championship.
It was not all plain sailing for the Pats as Kansas City put on 24 points in the final quarter to force the game beyond the regulation 60 minutes.
Damien Williams scored three touchdowns for the Chiefs in the final 15 minutes while New England’s Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead also found the end zone as the lead changed four times.
Harrison Butker forced the game into overtime with a field goal in the dying seconds from 39 yards, but Brady went on to break hearts at the Arrowhead.
A Brady pass to Julian Edelman for 20-yards was followed by a second for 15 as the Patriots took up good field position.
Burkhead was the one to seal the deal with a two-yard rush up the middle.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day the Rams punched their ticket to the Super Bowl with kicker Greg Zuerlein holding his nerve to score a field goal from 57 yards in overtime to defeat the New Orleans Saints 26-23.
The number one and two seeds, who both finished their seasons with 13-3 records, faced off in the NFC Championship game and it was the Saints who made most of the early running.
Kicker Wil Lutz was true with the boot from 37 and 29 yards and quarterback Drew Brees found Garrett Griffin for a five-yard touchdown as the Saints led 13-0 after the first quarter.
The Rams bounced back in the second, Zuerlein making a field goal from 36 yards and Todd Gurley rushing from six yards to reduce the deficit to 13-10 at the half.
Brees – 26 of 38 for 249 yards – got his second touchdown of the day in the third, passing two yards to Taysom Hill, while the Rams QB Jared Goff got his first score to Tyler Higbee as the sides entered the final 15 minutes at 20-17.
A 39-yard pass from Goff to Gerald Everett gave the Rams decent field position late in the fourth, but Los Angeles had to settle for a field goal to tie the game at 20-20.
Brees was intercepted for the first time in overtime as John Johnson got the pick at the 46-yard line to give the Rams good field position.
The drive stalled as Zuerlein was, once again, called into action for a 57-yard field goal attempt.
The 31-year-old split the uprights as the Rams booked their ticket to the Super Bowl, 20 years since the Rams – then based in St Louis – beat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.
In what could be the Raiders’ final game in Oakland, the side gave the home fans plenty to cheer after cruising to a 17-0 lead at half time.
Dwayne Harris deserves a lot of credit for the opener as he returned a Colby Wadman punt 99 yards for the score, but Denver could – and should – have downed the ball at the one-yard line.
The lead became 14 midway through the second quarter, when the Broncos did not pick up Doug Martin who rushed into the end zone from 24 yards.
The Broncos got on the board late in the third – as Case Keenum found DaeSean Hamilton, but a Jalen Richard rushing touchdown made the game 24-7 in the fourth.
Courtland Sutton connected with Keenum to keep the game alive, but Marcus Gilchrist picked the Denver quarterback off with 5:36 left in the encounter to seal the win.
The Los Angeles Chargers secured a place in the NFL playoffs with a dramatic 29-28 comeback victory over division rivals the Kansas City Chiefs.
The side erased a 14-point deficit in the final five minutes, Mike Williams scoring on a touchdown with four seconds remaining to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 28-27.
Coach Anthony Lynn opted to go for the win, and quarterback Philip Rivers connected with Williams on the game-winning two-point conversion.
The victory means the Chiefs and the Chargers are now tied at the top of the AFC, on 11-3 for the season.
It also ended Los Angeles’ nine-game losing streak to their long-time opponents.
Rivers threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns, while Williams had three touchdowns.