Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onships full of of­fen­sive fire­power

First time in Su­per Bowl era that top four scor­ing of­fenses reach ti­tle games

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jay Co­hen

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

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

The NFL’s high­estscor­ing 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

NFC:

AFC: 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 28yard 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.

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.

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.”

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