LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Quarterback Tom Brady led New England to a Super Bowl for the ninth time Sunday, passing for 348 yards and a touchdown as the visiting Patriots scored a touchdown with the first overtime possession and nipped the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31.
New England advances to play the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII after the Rams survived an overtime thriller against the New Orleans Saints earlier Sunday for the NFC crown.
Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard burst 4:52 into overtime as the Patriots marched 75 yards in 13 plays after winning the overtime coin toss.
“Overtime, on the road, against a great team,” Brady told CBS in a postgame interview. “…They had no quit. We had to play our best football at the end. I don’t know, man, I’m tired. That was a helluva game.”
The game turned into a terrific duel between Brady and the Chiefs’ dazzling first-year starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes passed for 295 yards, going 16 of 31, but did not get a chance in overtime as the withered Kansas City defense could not make a stop.
Taking possession with 32 seconds left in regulation, Mahomes completed passes of 21 yards to Spencer Ware and 27 yards to Demarcus Robinson to set up Harrison Butker for a 39-yard field goal with eight seconds left to forge a 31-31 tie to force overtime.
The score was the fourth for Kansas City in the final quarter after running back Damien Williams scored three touchdowns on two rushes and a reception — part of a 38-point collective output by both teams in a period that featured four lead changes.
Before Mahomes’ late drive, Brady actually appeared to have won the game with one of his patented late-game drives.
The New England quarterback got a break when an interception was wiped away because Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford lined up in the neutral zone and was ruled offsides.
A 25-yard strike to tight end Rob Gronkowski on the next play set up a 4-yard touchdown rush by Burkhead with 39 seconds left in regulation for a 31-28 lead.
Burkhead finished with 12 carries for 41 yards and two scores, while rookie Sony Michel added 113 yards on 29 carries, including two touchdowns.
Julian Edelman led the New England receivers with 96 yards on seven grabs, including a pair of third-down conversions on the game-winning drive. Brady finished 30 of 46 with two interceptions.
Sammy Watkins caught four passes for a whopping 114 yards to lead the Chiefs’ receivers.
The Patriots took a 14-0 halftime lead, beginning with a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession. The march, which began after the Chiefs won the coin toss and deferred, took 8:05, the most time-consuming playoff drive ever engineered by Brady. Michel scored on a 1-yard plunge.
New England, which outgained Kansas City 245-32 in the half and held a 16-3 advantage in first downs, was again at the Chiefs 1 on its second possession. Linebacker Reggie Ragland, however, intercepted a pass in the end zone, ending a playoff-record streak of 237 pass attempts without an interception by Brady.
The Chiefs blew an opportunity to score midway through the second quarter. Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill for a 42-yard strike to the New England 23. On the next play, Williams broke wide open on a wheel route, but Mahomes overthrew him. Field-goal range was squandered when Mahomes was sacked for a 14-yard loss by Trey Flowers.
Phillip Dorsett tacked on a 29-yard TD snag with 27 seconds left in the half to cap a 90-yard drive by the Pats. Brady had 146 yards passing at the break, Michel had 75 rushing.