The upcoming Super Bowl will be a rematch of the 2001-02 title game. Greg Zuerlein has kicked the Los Angeles Rams into the Super Bowl, and Patriots are headed back there for the third straight year and the ninth time in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Zuerlein drilled a 57-yard field goal in overtime to complete the Rams' comeback in a 26-23 victory over the Saints in the NFC Championship Game at a raucous New Orleans Superdome. The game-ending kick came after Drew Brees heaved a fluttering pass that was picked off by John Johnson III on the first drive of the extra period.
The Saints were on the verge of a 23-20 victory until Zuerlein hit a 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation. The tying drive came after Los Angeles cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant interference penalty with a helmet-to-helmet hit inside the Rams 5. But the officials missed the penalty, forcing the Saints to settle for Wil Lutz's 31-yard field goal that made it 23-20 with 1:45 left in regulation.
The Rams clawed back after the Saints took a 13-0, first-quarter lead on a pair of Wil Lutz field goals and a five-yard scoring strike from Brees to Garrett Griffin. Los Angeles remained scoreless until punter John Hekker completed a 12-yard pass on fourth down, leading to Zuerlein's first field goal of the afternoon.
Todd Gurley scored the Rams' first TD just before halftime following a 36-yard reception by former Saints receiver Brandin Cooks. Jared Goff later hit Tyler Higbee for a one-yard score after Brees tossed his second scoring strike to restore the Saints' 10-point lead midway through the third quarter. Goff was 25 of 40 passing for 297 yards and one interception.
The Rams are in the Super Bowl for the first time since their loss to New England in the 2002 game at the Superdome. It's the first time Los Angeles has a Super Bowl team since the 1979 Rams fell to Pittsburgh. It was the first home playoff loss for the Saints with Brees and coach Sean Payton.
The Patriots also needed overtime before Rex Burkhead's 2-yard TD run gave them a 37-31 victory over the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at Kansas City. New England won the toss before Brady drove the team 75 yards in less than five minutes.
The Chiefs trailed 17-7 in the fourth quarter until Damien Williams scored three touchdowns, including receptions of one and 23 yards from Patrick Mahomes. Burkhead put New England back on top with a four-yard scoring run with 39 seconds left in regulation, but it took the Chiefs just 31 seconds to tie the game and force OT on Harrison Butker's 39-yard field goal. Brady was intercepted twice while completing 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards and one touchdown. Sony Michel scored the game's first TD and finished with 113 yards on 29 carries. Mahomes and the Chiefs heated up after netting just 32 yards on the opening half. The NFL MVP candidate finished 16 of 31 for 295 yards and three touchdowns.
It's the first year both conference title games went to OT. The last time both visitors won conference championship matches was 2012.
The surprising New York Islanders have expanded their lead in the NHL's Metropolitan Division with their fifth straight win and 15th in their last 18 games. Cal Clutterbuck scored twice in the first 10 minutes to support Robin Lehner's 19-save performance as the Islanders blanked the Ducks, 3-0. Clutterbuck notched a power-play goal 4:56 after the opening faceoff and added his sixth tally of the season five minutes later. Lehner claimed his third shutout of the season and lowered his league-leading goals-against average to 2.02.
New York now paces its division by three points over the Capitals and Blue Jackets, thanks to a little help from Jonathan Toews and the Blackhawks. Toews had three goals and two assists as Chicago dealt Washington its fifth straight loss, 8-5. Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat also scored and Dylan Strome added an empty-netter as last-place Chicago stopped its own five-game slide. John Carlson scored twice in the third period for the Caps, whose goals all came from defensemen.
Elsewhere on NHL ice, Vinnie Hinostroza snapped a 2-2 tie in the third period as the Coyotes downed the Maple Leafs, 4-2. Clayton Keller, Mario Kempe and Lawson Crouse also scored as Arizona won for the fifth time in the last seven games. John Tavares notched his 30th goal of the season for the Leafs, who have dropped seven of their last 10.
Carolina was a 7-4 winner at Edmonton as Nino Niederreiter scored twice in his second game since being acquired by the Hurricanes. Lucas Wallmark was among four Hurricanes with three points, finishing with two goals and an assist.
Rookie Elias Pettersson returned from a knee injury to deliver a goal and an assist in helping the Canucks knock off the Red Wings, 3-2. Antoine Roussel and Bo Horvat also scored for Vancouver, Brock Boeser had two assists and Jacob Markstrom stopped 35 shots.
The Indiana Pacers find themselves 16 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013-14 NBA season. The Pacers won for the fourth time in five games as Victor Oladipo contributed 21 points to a 120-95 thumping of the Hornets. Darren Collison added 19 points and nine assists for the Pacers, who jumped out to a 32-16 lead late in the first quarter. Kemba Walker had 23 points to lead the Hornets, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Checking out Sunday's other NBA action, the Clippers ended a five-game losing streak as Tobias Harris had a near-triple-double of 27 points, nine rebounds and a career-high nine assists in a 103-95 victory at San Antonio. Patrick Beverly hit a pair of big free throws in the closing seconds and finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 14 rebounds for the Spurs, who committed 18 turnovers.
The Timberwolves pulled out a 116-114 victory over the Suns on an 18-footer by Derrick Rose with 0.6 seconds left. Rose scored 29 of his 31 points in the second half to help Minnesota overcome an 11-point deficit. Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 of his 30 points in the first half for the Wolves.
In NBA news, the Milwaukee Bucks plan to retire four-time All-Star Marques Johnson's No. 8 jersey in a halftime ceremony when the team hosts Cleveland on March 24. The former UCLA star played 524 career games with Milwaukee over seven seasons, from 1977-84. He will become the ninth Bucks player to have his number retired.
In men's college basketball, Monmouth defeated Iona, 83-81. And in women's basketball, Georgia Tech took down Syracuse, 65-55, UConn defeated Temple, 88-67, and UMass socked Davidson, 70-58.
In top-25 basketball, unranked Boston College had dropped five in a row before dealing No. 11 Florida State its third consecutive loss. Ky Bowman was 6-for-8 from 3-point range while scoring 37 points as the Eagles whipped the Seminoles, 87-82. Jordan Chatman added 17 points, including three straight 3-pointers during a 21-4 run to start the second half. BC led by nine with 87 seconds left before a pair of turnovers against the full-court press allowed Florida State to make it a four-point game. But Wynston Tabbs made a 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining to turn back the rally and drop the Seminoles to 13-5. Mfiondu Kabengele had 26 points and nine rebounds for Florida State.
Sam Hauser scored 25 points and Markus Howard added 20 of his 24 points in the second half as No. 15 Marquette rallied past Providence 79-68. The Golden Eagles trailed by eight at the break before going on runs of 13-5 and 10-2 to surge ahead.
Freshman Joe Wieskamp matched a career high with 24 points as No. 23 Iowa routed Illinois 95-71. Isaiah Moss scored a season-high 21 points and Luka Garza added 20 in the Hawkeyes' fifth consecutive win.
In college basketball news, Florida forward Keith Stone will have season-ending surgery after tearing the ACL in his left knee during Saturday's win at Georgia. The 6-foot-8 junior from Deerfield Beach averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17 games this season, including 13 starts. He scored eight points in nine minutes before landing awkwardly on his left leg while trying to block a shot against the Bulldogs.
American Madison Keys has been ousted in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina has advanced to the quarterfinals with a momentum-swinging 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win over the 17th-seeded Keys. The WTA Finals winner fended off five breakpoints in a pivotal third game in the third set that went to deuce 11 times and lasted more than 15 minutes. She broke Keys' serve at the first opportunity in the next game and finished off the match quickly. Svitolina will next play U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka, who was a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 triumph against No. 13 Anastasija Sevastova. The fourth-seeded Osaka broke serve in the third and sixth games of the second set and maintained momentum by breaking again to open the third set.
Seventh seed Karolina Pliskova advanced to the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over former No.1 Garbine Muguruza. Pliskova made only three unforced errors during the 60-minute match in which she dominated Muguruza in their baseline duels.
The men's quarterfinals will include No. 16 Milos Raonic, who polished off fourth seed Alexander Zverev with a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 victory.
In the night matches, Serena Williams continues her bid for an eighth Australian and Open-era record 24th singles major when she takes on No. 1-ranked Simona Halep. Six-time men's winner Novak Djokovic faces Daniil Medvedev.
In tennis news, Li Na is the first player from Asia elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Li, Mary Pierce and Yevgeny Kafelnikov will be inducted July 20 at the hall in Newport, Rhode Island. All three players won a pair of Grand Slam singles titles.
Phil Mickelson played well in the final round of the PGA's Desert Classic, but his putting wasn't good enough to close out a victory in his first start of the year. Adam Long closed with a 7-under-par 65 to win the event by one stroke over Mickelson and Adam Hadwin. Long made a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole to earn his first PGA win, doing it in his sixth career start. Mickelson opened the tournament with a 60 and was the leader after each of the first three rounds. His 40-foot birdie try on 18 curled left at the end, leaving him with a final-round 69.
South Korean Eun-Hee Ji outlasted the cold and wind to close with a 1-under 70 and win the LPGA Tour's season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions by two shots over Mirim Lee. Ji shared the 54-hole lead with Lydia Ko before finishing at 14 under. Lee made only one bogey inn a final-round 68. Ko was one shot behind when she made double bogey on the par-5 13th and wound up shooting 42 on the back nine for a closing 77.
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