KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The New England Patriots are headed to their third straight Super Bowl, once more thanks to Tom Brady’s brilliance.
The five-time NFL champion guided the Patriots 75 yards after winning the overtime coin toss, and backup Rex Burkhead’s 2-yard TD lifted New England past Kansas City 37-31 for the AFC championship.
The drive against an exhausted defense was reminiscent of when the Patriots beat Atlanta in the only Super Bowl to go to OT two years ago.
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New England (13-5) benefited from two critical replay reviews and made its ninth Super Bowl with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Awaiting them in Atlanta are the Los Angeles Rams, who won 26-23 in overtime in New Orleans for the NFC championship. The Rams last made the Super Bowl in 2002 while based in St. Louis, losing to the Patriots.
It’s the first time both conference title games went to OT. The last time both visitors won conference championship matches was 2012.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Greg Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal in overtime to send the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl with a 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game.
The stunning finish came after New Orleans got the ball first in the extra period. Under pressure, Drew Brees fluttered up a pass that was picked off by John Johnson III, who was able to hang on to the interception while falling onto his back.
The Rams weren’t able to do much offensively, but it didn’t matter. Zuerlein, who had already delivered a tying 48-yard kick with 15 seconds left in regulation, booted through the winning field goal with plenty of room to spare.
New Orleans squandered an early 13-0 lead and couldn’t overcome a blown call in the closing minutes of regulation, when the officials failed to flag a blatant pass interference penalty on Los Angeles Nickell Robey-Coleman inside the 5.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Oddsmakers made the Super Bowl essentially a tossup in opening lines Sunday, though bettors quickly turned the New England Patriots into a slight favorite in what is expected to be the most heavily bet — at least legally — title game ever.
Early bets moved the line at many books so the Patriots were either one- or two-point favorites. The over-under was 58 at some books, 58.5 at others.
NEW YORK (AP) — Henry Cejudo needed only a record 32 seconds to defend his 125-pound title in New York. Cejudo’s next defense was a passionate one for the flyweights — and the hope that the pounding he put on T.J. Dillashaw early Sunday was enough to keep a sparkling new UFC title belt around his waist for more than one fight.
Cejudo turned champ vs. champ into a super quick mismatch.
Cejudo made the first main event on ESPN-plus the fastest finish ever in a flyweight championship fight. Cejudo was a buzzsaw at Barclays Center and never let Dillashaw, the 135-pound champ, catch his breath in a blink-and-miss it finish.
Cejudo might not get another title defense. The division is on the brink of extinction and Cejudo made his case all week to keep the 125 pounders fighting.
All eyes at Barclays — and thousands of boos — were directed on troubled ex-NFL star Greg Hardy for his UFC debut. Hardy’s first fight ended with a disqualification loss after he blasted Allen Crowder with an illegal knee to stop the fight in the second round.
LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) — Adam Long made a 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the Desert Classic for his first PGA Tour title.
Making his sixth career start on the tour, Long closed with a 7-under 65 on the Stadium Course at PGA West to beat playing partners Phil Mickelson (69) and Adam Hadwin (67) by a stroke. Long finished at 26-under-262.
Mickelson, the leader after each of the first three rounds, fought putting problems in the final round. His 40-foot birdie try on 18 curled left at the end.
Long set up with the winning putt with a 6-iron shot from 175 yards with the ball below his feet in dormant grass on a mound to the right of the fairway. The 31-year-old former Duke player earned his PGA Tour card with a 13th-place finish last year on the Web.com Tour’s regular-season money list.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea outlasted the cold and wind to close with a 1-under 70 and win the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions by two shots in the LPGA Tour season opener.
Ji shared the 54-hole lead with Lydia Ko, who fell apart on the back nine at Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons. 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.
Ji finished at 14-under 270 to win by two over Mirim Lee, who made only one bogey in her round of 68. Nelly Korda (71) finished third.
Stacy Lewis, in her first competition as a mother, shot 70 and tied for sixth.
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Dwyane Wade’s last dance went back to college.
The Miami Heat guard — who has dubbed his 16th and final NBA season “One Last Dance” — was the guest of honor at Marquette’s game against Providence on Sunday. Wade starred for the Golden Eagles during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, leading Marquette to the Final Four in his last year of college before he jumped to the NBA.
It was part of a weekend celebration for Wade, who played for the final time in his hometown of Chicago on Saturday night when the Heat topped the Bulls. He and his family made the quick trip north to frosty Milwaukee, where students and fans donned gold T-shirts bearing his name and No. 3 on the back for “Dwyane Wade Day.”
CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) — What was evident all weekend for Lindsey Vonn became clear to everyone else on Sunday.
The American skier’s surgically repaired knees simply don’t let her apply the power she requires to win races anymore. The pain is too severe; the psychological impact too much to bear; her pride too great.
No wonder that Vonn is considering moving up her retirement.
After failing to finish a World Cup super-G, Vonn said leaving the sport immediately “is a possibility.”