'Worst no-call of the 2018 season': Rams & Patriots advance to Super Bowl LIII after overtime drama
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton says his team will "probably never get over" the controversial call which may have cost them a place in next month's Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 57-yard attempt to clinch a 26-23 win in overtime, though the manner in which they got the opportunity to take the kick was dubious as the referees appeared to miss a clear pass interference call on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis towards the end of regulation time.
Had the call been made, the Saints would have allowed them to run down to clock to around 10 seconds left in the game and given them field position to score a game-winning field goal.
"It was as obvious a call (as could be) and how two guys can look at that and come up and arrive with their decision, I don't know," Payton said to the media after the game.
"It happened though, so we can't dwell on it. We'll probably never get over it."
Sean Payton: “Just getting off the phone with the league office. They blew the call.”— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) January 20, 2019
That one is on the refs. I never say that. And I generally hate blaming a single instance or call. But in a game that close, when one play can change everything, yeah, that's as bad of a miss as it gets. That flag could've been thrown 10 seconds late and no one would argue it.— Chris Hagan (@ChrisHaganTV) January 20, 2019
Worst no-call of 2018 season.— Peter King (@peter_king) January 20, 2019
The Saints were left to stomach a last-gap elimination from the playoffs for the second season in a row, after a last-second loss to the Minnesota Vikings just over a year ago.
The victorious Rams will face Tom Brady's Patriots at Super Bowl LIII, who will make their third successive tilt for the championship after a 37-31 overtime victory against the Kansas City Chiefs after a night of high drama in Foxborough.
The evergreen Brady, 41, once again masterminded his team's route to the sport's marquee match-up with an overtime drive to set up a two-yard rushing touchdown for running back Rex Burkhead to clinch the AFC Championship with the final play of the game.
It wasn't easy, though. The Chiefs looked to have clinched victory late in the fourth quarter as potential MVP Patrick Mahomes guided his team to 31 second half points as the Patriots looked to have run out of steam.
The Chiefs led 28-24 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter but a late Patriots touchdown gave Patrick Mahomes, an MVP candidate in his first full season in the league, just 32 seconds to reply. He drove his team into field goal position to tie the game, but Burkhead's short run cemented the Patriots' victory in the only possession of overtime after a coin toss determined who would receive the ball.
Tom Brady just quietly approached a security guard waiting outside the Chiefs’ locker room — and asked if he could see Patrick Mahomes. Brady was escorted into a room where he spoke briefly with him. A very clear display of respect from one incredible quarterback to another.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 21, 2019
41 is the new 21! Way to go Tom Brady, who still throws the football like a quarterback half his age. #GOAT 🐐— Manny Pacquiao (@mannypacquiao) January 21, 2019
"We knew it was going to be tough," Brady said in the aftermath of the dramatic conclusion, the first time that both the AFC and NFC championship games have gone to overtime.
"Kansas are explosive and they have been beating teams here all year. It was awesome, what a game."
The New England Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII at the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on February 3.