and had three touchdowns and the Patriots beat the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the divisional playoffs on Sunday to earn their 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 BradyBill Belichick era.
which fell 45-35 at the Superdome in November, will try again next week, with the winner going to the Super Bowl. 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.
“Listen, they got off to a fast start, they’re a great team,” Brees said. “Nick Foles has done a phenomenal job for them. We knew it was going to be different than last time.”
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.
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, Jeffery couldn’t han- dle a second-down pass, and it was over.
“That’s a great champi- onship team,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the Eagles. “We remained con- fident.”
Brees had 2-yard touch- down passes to rookie Keith Kirkwood and All-Pro wide- out Michael Thomas, who had 12 receptions for 171 yards.
Philadelphia had ball for more than nine minutes in the first quarter, after which the Eagles had the ball about 13 minutes and never scored.
In a span of three plays, two starters were hurt and needed to be carted off.
First, Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins went down midway in the first quarter, unable to put any weight on his left foot. Two plays later, Eagles right guard Brandon Brooks hurt his right leg and departed.
Philly also lost DB Rasul Douglas in the second quarter to an ankle injury, but he was back in the second half. DLs Fletcher Cox, an All-Pro, and Michael Bennett also were sidelined at times before returning. In the fourth quarter, left tackle Jason Peters left.
Maybe the Saints were rusty after their wild-card bye, but they got two first downs, including one by penalty, gained 17 yards, and Brees threw an interception and had a fumble that was recovered by teammate Ryan Ramczyk in the opening period.
The Saints’ Drew Brees reacts afterthrowinga touchdown pass against the Eagles on Sunday.