NFC

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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.

In­juries

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.

Ugly start

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.

CHRIS GRAYTHEN / GETTY IMAGES

The Saints’ Drew Brees re­acts af­terthrowinga touch­down pass against the Ea­gles on Sun­day.

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