Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes. Drew Brees against Jared Goff.

Two high-profile rematches with the Super Bowl on the line.

The NFL's highest-scoring offenses face off in the conference championships next Sunday. Brady leads the New England Patriots into Kansas City to take on Mahomes and the Chiefs, and Brees and the New Orleans Saints host Goff and the Los Angeles Rams.

"We'll see how it goes," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "Well-coached, they have a lot of explosive players. We had a tremendous game with them here earlier. That was a long time ago. We'll see where we are now, see where they are."

New England hosted Kansas City way back on Oct. 14, and Brady passed for 340 yards and a touchdown in a 43-40 victory that was the Chiefs' first loss of the season. Mahomes' 75-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill tied it with 3:03 left, but Brady drove the Patriots to Stephen Gostkowski's 28-yard field goal as time expired.

The AFC championship game is Brady's first trip to Kansas City since he threw two interceptions and was sacked twice in an ugly 41-14 loss on "Monday Night Football" on Sept. 29, 2014.

"It'll be a tough game," Brady said. "They're well-coached. They've got a good offense. ... It's going to be a lot of fun to go back there and play in a championship game and try to advance."

New Orleans (14-3) and Los Angeles (14-3) played their own wild shootout on Nov. 4. Wil Lutz's 54-yard field goal got the lead for the Saints with 6:23 left, and Brees found Michael Thomas for a clinching 72-yard touchdown in a 45-35 victory.

"When we come out there, we feel like no one can stop us," Thomas said of his connection with Brees. "I just feel like we keep building every week. We have a thing, and it's hard for the other team to stop."

The Saints averaged 31.5 points this season on their way to the NFC South title, ranking third in the NFL behind the Chiefs (35.3 points per game) and Rams (32.9) and ahead of the Patriots (27.3).

It's the first time in the Super Bowl era that the NFL's top four scoring offenses all reached the conference championships.

But New Orleans' defense played a crucial role in its 20-14 win over Philadelphia in the divisional round on Sunday. Marshon Lattimore had two interceptions, including one on the Eagles' final drive, and the Saints erased an early 14-0 deficit.

"We were real calm and poised and we knew we were going to get things done," Brees said.

Los Angeles advanced by powering its way to a 30-22 win against Dallas on Saturday. C.J. Anderson had 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, and Todd Gurley rushed for 115 more yards and another TD.

"Our sense of focus and the sense of urgency have gone up tremendously," guard Rodger Saffold said.

New England (12-5) also showed off its rushing attack in a 41-28 win against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Sony Michel rushed for 129 yards and three TDs.

The Patriots scored on their first four possessions on their way to a 35-7 halftime lead.

"The ability to execute early and get things going sets a lot of things up," wide receiver Julian Edelman said. "It shows that we had a good week of practice, executed well in practice and it carried over and went into the game."

Kansas City (13-4) is headed for its first AFC title game in 25 years after rolling to a 31-13 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Mahomes, who is one of the favorites for the NFL MVP award, passed for 278 yards and rushed for a score in his playoff debut.

"This is what we work for," Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford said. "We just want to keep this thing rolling. Enjoy it now but keep it rolling."

SAINTS 20, EAGLES 14

The New Orleans Saints got two touchdown passes from Drew Brees, two interceptions by Marcus Lattimore, and rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-14 Sunday to advance to the NFC championship game.

Using a dominant ball-control offense after a horrendous start, Brees took the Saints (14-3) on scoring drives of 92, 79 and 67 yards. And a few gambles paid off to assure New Orleans will host the Rams (13-4) next Sunday for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Los Angeles, which fell 45-35 at the Superdome in November, will try again next week, with the winner taking on either Kansas City or New England in the Super Bowl in Atlanta. The Saints' win finished off a sweep of the divisional round by teams coming off byes.

Wil Lutz added two field goals for the Saints, who last got this far in 2009, when they won the Super Bowl.

Philadelphia (10-8) will not repeat as NFL champion; no team has done so since the 2004 Patriots.

This was really two games in one. Philly scored on its first two drives as the Saints could do virtually nothing right.

After that opening period, it was all New Orleans, yet the resilient Eagles kept it close enough that when Lutz missed a 52-yard field goal with 2:58 remaining, they were only one-score behind.

Nick Foles, the hero of last year's Super Bowl run, got them in position for yet another late winning score — just like last week at Chicago and last February against New England for the championship.

Then Alshon Jeffery couldn't handle a second-down pass from the Saints 27 and Lattimore grabbed his second interception to clinch the win.

PATRIOTS 41, CHARGERS 28

Sony Michel ran for 129 yards and had three touchdowns and New England beat Los Angeles in the divisional playoffs to earn its eighth straight trip to the AFC championship game.

New England (12-5) will play at Kansas City in next week's AFC title game. The Patriots beat the Chiefs 43-40 in Foxborough in Week 6. The Patriots finished 9-0 at home this season.

It is the 13th conference championship game appearance by the Patriots during the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.

The Chargers (13-5) haven't reached the AFC title game since the 2007 season.

Philip Rivers finished 25 of 51 for 331 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He is 0-5 in games played in Foxborough, including 0-3 in the postseason.

Brady finished 34 of 44 for 343 yards and a touchdown. He improves to 8-0 as a starter against Rivers, who drops to 1-8 against New England all-time.

James White tied Darren Sproles' NFL postseason record with 15 catches, totaling 97 yards.

New England scored on its first four possessions of the game to build a 35-7 halftime lead.

Julian Edelman had nine catches for 151 yards.

RAMS 30, COWBOYS 22

C.J. Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley rushed for 115 more yards and another TD in the Los Angeles Rams' first playoff victory in 14 years, 30-22 over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional round on Saturday night.

Gurley and Anderson punished the Cowboys' normally sturdy run defense and sent the second-seeded Rams (14-3) to the NFC championship game for the first time in 17 years. Los Angeles racked up a franchise playoff-record 273 yards on the ground — also the most ever allowed in the postseason by the Cowboys, who were playing in their NFL-record 63rd postseason game.

The long-struggling Rams had won only one postseason game since their last trip to the Super Bowl in February 2002, but 32-year-old coach Sean McVay has added his first playoff victory to his spectacular two-season franchise turnaround.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a TD and Amari Cooper caught an early TD pass for the Cowboys (11-7), who still haven't won a playoff game on the road in 26 years. After winning the NFC East and beating Seattle last week, Dallas lost in the divisional playoff round for the sixth consecutive time and fell short of its first trip to the NFC championship game since January 1996.

Next weekend, the Rams will face the winner of the other divisional playoff game in New Orleans between the top-seeded Saints and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

The Rams are one win away from another Super Bowl trip after McVay's high-flying, inventive offense largely kept it on the ground, methodically punishing the Cowboys' normally sturdy run defense with their unlikely running back tandem.

The Cowboys, who largely shut down Seattle's league-best rushing attack last week, hadn't allowed two 100-yard rushers in a playoff game since the NFL-AFL merger.

Dak Prescott passed for 266 yards and rushed for a TD with 2:11 to play, but the Cowboys couldn't climb out after falling into a 23-7 hole midway through the third quarter. Elliott managed just 47 yards on 20 carries as Dallas lost for just the second time in its last 10 games.

Jared Goff passed for 186 yards and spent much of the night handing off, but the gangly quarterback improbably scrambled 11 yards for a first down with 1:51 to play, essentially wrapping up his first playoff victory.

CHIEFS 31, COLTS 13

Patrick Mahomes picked apart the Colts in his postseason debut, the Chiefs defense answered their chorus of critics with a stout performance, and Kansas City rolled to a victory over Indianapolis in the divisional round to end 25 years of playoff frustration.

Mahomes threw for 278 yards while running for a touchdown, and Damien Williams ran through snow and muck for 129 yards and another score, as the Chiefs beat Indianapolis for the first time in five playoff meetings to earn their first AFC title game appearance since January 1994.

The AFC West champions will play the winner of Sunday's game between the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots next weekend for a spot in the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

Andrew Luck was held to 203 yards passing for the Colts (11-7), while Marlon Mack was a non-factor on the ground. He had 46 yards rushing before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a hip injury.

With persistent snow turning Arrowhead Stadium into a winter wonderland, the Chiefs (13-4) waltzed all over a Colts defense that nearly shut out the Texans a week ago. Mahomes and Co. scored on their first three possessions , then again just before halftime, to take a 24-7 lead into the break.

If there was any question whether this would be Kansas City's day, it was answered when Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed a 23-yard field-goal try off the upright just before halftime. It was the first time in 22 postseason attempts that he'd missed from that close.


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Kyle Hightower in Foxborough, Mass., Brett Martel in New Orleans and Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

0
0
0
0
0