(Reuters) – Comeback kings the New Orleans Saints are hoping a return to the National Football Conference (NFC) title game next weekend will be a lucky charm.
Jan 13, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints strong safety Vonn Bell (24) breaks up a pass against Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) during the fourth quarter of a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The Saints, who overcame the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles for a 20-14 divisional victory on Sunday, took home the league trophy themselves the last time they made the conference championship in the 2009 season playoffs.
Drew Brees and company, the NFC top seeds, will meet the Los Angeles Rams in New Orleans next Sunday for the conference title with a shot at football’s biggest prize on the line.
The winners of that contest will face the AFC champion team, either the Kansas City Chiefs or the New England Patriots, in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in Atlanta.
On Sunday in New Orleans, Philadelphia and magical backup quarterback Nick Foles put the Saints in a 14-0 first-quarter hole but the Eagles were unable to get another point on the board.
Brees, the most valuable player in the Super Bowl XLIV triumph, shook off an early interception to throw for 301 yards and two touchdowns.
“We just had to find our rhythm,” said Brees, whose team finally took the lead at 17-14 on a two-yard pass from the quarterback to Michael Thomas late in the third quarter.
Foles, who stepped in for injured Carson Wentz to lead Philadelphia to the Super Bowl last year, was never going to give up and he had the Eagles at the New Orleans 27 in the fourth quarter before an interception ended their dreams.
The Rams, meanwhile, simply ran over the Dallas Cowboys to make the title game with a franchise playoff record 273 rushing yards in Saturday’s 30-22 divisional win in Los Angeles.
Veteran C.J Anderson pitched in with 123 yards and two scores, while Todd Gurley added another 115 yards as the Los Angeles offensive line dominated the Cowboys defense.
The NFC second seed, the Rams will be seeking their fourth conference title but a first since moving back to Los Angeles from St. Louis in 2016.
Sunday’s Patriots-Chiefs game will match one of the league’s best young quarterbacks, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, against five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady of New England.
The two locked up in a shootout in October with the Patriots winning a 43-40 thriller when Stephen Gostkowski hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired.
New England will be going for their eighth consecutive conference title – and 11th overall – while top-seeded Kansas City will be looking for their second as the Chiefs line up in the conference championships for the first time since 1994.
Rookie Sony Michel had 129 yards rushing and three touchdowns to spur the fast-starting Patriots to a 41-28 divisional win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
The 41-year-old Brady added 343 yards passing and running back James White made it into the record book when he tied the NFL record for receptions in a postseason game, with 15 for 97 yards.
Kansas City’s defense clamped down on Indianapolis in the other divisional game on Saturday with Mahomes throwing for 278 yards and running for a touchdown in a 31-13 win.
The Chiefs also got plenty of help from running back Damien Williams who tore through the Colts defense for 129 yards.
Looking on next Sunday is expected to be a Good Samaritan named Dave who helped Chiefs guard Jeff Allen free his car from snow before Saturday’s win over Indianapolis.
Allen neglected to obtain Dave’s contact information and took to Twitter on Sunday in search for his last name.
Thousands responded before Dave, who had not realized Allen was an NFL player, was located and the offensive lineman was able to offer the “nice guy” tickets to the title game.
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney