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Sunday May 19th, 2019 10:40AM

The Latest: Gostkowski's FG gives Pats 17-7 lead over Chiefs

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the conference championship games (all times EST):

8:50 p.m.

The Kansas City Chiefs refuse to go away in their first AFC title game in 25 years.

Patrick Mahomes flipped a short touchdown pass to Damien Williams on the second play of the fourth quarter, pulling the Chiefs within 17-14 of the New England Patriots with 14:51 to play.

It was the All-Pro quarterback's second TD throw of the second half, and he suddenly has 186 yards through the air. Much of it has gone to Sammy Watkins, who has three catches for 76 yards.

Now it's up to their defense to try to get the ball back.

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8:40 p.m.

Stephen Gostkowski has given the New England Patriots a 17-7 lead over the Kansas City Chiefs with just over a quarter left in the AFC championship game.

The Patriots held the Chiefs deep in their own territory to get the ball back midway through the third quarter. And while their drive went nowhere, Gostkowski managed to drill a 47-yard field goal through a whipping wind to make it a two-possession game again.

The Chiefs seemed to be seizing momentum after their quick touchdown and forcing a punt, but Mahomes was sacked for the fourth time to spoil their drive.

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8:25 p.m.

The Los Angeles Rams will rock their royal blue-and-yellow uniforms at the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

The team announced the jersey selection on Twitter after beating the Saints 26-23 in overtime in the NFC championship game.

The Rams wore similar uniforms for much of their first stint in Los Angeles but ditched the royal blue for a navy-and-gold scheme in 2000 while in St. Louis.

The franchise moved back to LA for the 2016 season, and after an outcry from fans, it again adopted the royal blue jerseys as a primary home look this season.

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8:15 p.m.

The Chiefs needed just four plays in the second half to make the AFC championship a game.

Patrick Mahomes threw a 54-yard strike to Sammy Watkins to convert on third down, then hit tight end Travis Kelce on a skinny post for a 12-yard touchdown to get within 14-7 of the Patriots.

The play to Watkins went for 20 yards more than Kansas City managed the entire first half.

Still, the quick-strike drive by the league's highest-scoring offense brought the crowd back into the game, and it put some pressure on Tom Brady and the Patriots to respond.

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7:55 p.m.

The New England Patriots took a 14-0 lead over the Chiefs into halftime of the AFC championship game, their offensive and defensive lines manhandling Kansas City on a crisp, cold night.

The Patriots had 245 yards while the Chiefs managed 32 yards.

It could have been even worse for the Chiefs. One first-half Patriots drive ended when Tom Brady was intercepted in the end zone.

It was Brady's first career interception from the 1-yard line. He was 49 of 71 with 43 TDs before that play.

The half was summed up by the closing minutes, when the Patriots marched 90 yards in 2:41 and Brady hit Phillip Dorsett for a 27-yard touchdown reception. The Chiefs got the ball back with 27 seconds left and Patrick Mahomes nearly fumbled it away on their only snap.

Mahomes was just 4 of 8 for 65 yards while getting sacked three times.

It was the first time Kansas City was shut out in a half this season.

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7:30 p.m.

Saints coach Sean Payton says the NFL told him officials botched a crucial pass interference call late in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game. New Orleans was eliminated by the Rams 26-23 in overtime one game from the Super Bowl.

The Saints faced third-and-10 from the Rams 13 in the final two minutes when Los Angeles defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman slammed into Tommylee Lewis, connecting helmet-to-helmet, while Drew Brees' pass was still in the air. Payton and the Saints were livid when no flag was thrown. The missed call started a sequence that pushed the game to overtime.

Payton says officials on the field told him Robey-Coleman "arrived at the same time that the ball did." Payton got on the phone with the league to discuss the call immediately after the game.

"We lose a chance to go to the Super Bowl with a call like that, it's just disappointing," Payton said.

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7:10 p.m.

The Patriots lead the Chiefs 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, though Tom Brady and Co. are poised to score again after a dominant first 15 minutes in the AFC championship game.

Kansas City only had the ball for 2:22 in the quarter, picking up a first down only on a defensive holding penalty. Patrick Mahomes was 0-for-2 passing and Damien Williams ran twice for 3 yards.

Throw in a sack of Mahomes, and the Chiefs had minus-11 yards in the first quarter.

Brady was 7 of 9 for 64 yards, clinically slicing up the Chiefs' defense.

___

6:55 p.m.

The Patriots have taken a 7-0 lead over the Chiefs after a grinding, 15-play, 80-yard drive that consumed more than half of the first quarter and ended with Sony Michel's touchdown plunge.

New England was 3 for 3 on third down, but Michel did most of the work, carrying seven times for 32 yards against what was statistically the worst rush defense in the NFL this season.

The draining drive also deflated a raucous crowd packed inside Arrowhead Stadium.

Now, it's up to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the league's highest-scoring offense to provide an answer.

___

6:40 p.m.

The AFC championship game is under way with the Kansas City Chiefs kicking off to the New England Patriots and seeking their first trip to the Super Bowl in 49 years.

The Patriots are trying to make it back for the third straight year.

Melissa Ethridge performed the anthem, and the crowd packed inside Arrowhead Stadium was roaring as Tom Brady led the Patriots onto the field for the opening drive.

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6:35 p.m.

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal in overtime, sending the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl with a 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans received the ball to open overtime, but Drew Brees was intercepted on a pass near midfield.

The Rams got one first down before getting stopped on third and 7 from the New Orleans 39. Zuerlein came on and drilled the winning kick dead-center with room to spare, ending a wild game that included a blown pass interference to stall the Saints in the red zone late in the fourth quarter.

It will be the Rams' first Super Bowl trip since returning to LA from St. Louis for the 2016 season.

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6:20 p.m.

The Saints and Rams have gone to overtime in the NFC championship game after a wild and controversial ending to the fourth quarter.

The teams exchanged field goals in the final six minutes. The first came when Rams coach Sean McVay, known for his bold decision making on fourth downs, opted for a field goal at the goal line to make it 20-20 with 5:06 left.

Drew Brees quickly drove the Saints downfield on the next possession, but New Orleans was stalled when officials missed a pass interference call on third down. Rams defensive back Nickel Robey-Coleman slammed into Tommylee Lewis while the ball was still in the air, and Saints coach Sean Payton was livid when no flag was thrown.

New Orleans' Wil Lutz followed with a 31-yard field goal with 1:45 left. Los Angeles then drove into Saints territory to set up Greg Zuerlein's tying 48-yard field goal with 19 seconds left to make it 23-23.

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5:50 p.m.

Greg Zuerlein made a 24-yard field goal with 5:03 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Rams tied the Saints 20-20 in the NFC championship game.

The kick capped a nine-play, 85-yard drive for the Rams, who trailed 13-0 after the first quarter.

Jared Goff completed passes to Josh Reynolds for 33 yards and to Gerald Everett for 39 yards on the drive.

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5:30 p.m.

Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. and defensive tackle Danny Shelton are inactive for their AFC championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Both are a bit of a surprise. Wise has been dealing with an ankle injury but was taken off the report this week, while Shelton is a helpful body when it comes to stopping the run.

The Patriots are choosing instead to go with an extra defensive back.

Chiefs right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif also is inactive. He returned to the active roster from IR this week after missing time with a broken leg. But the Chiefs chose to stick with Andrew Wylie, who has been playing well in a starting role.

___

5:20 p.m.

The Los Angeles Rams cut New Orleans' lead to 20-17 with a short touchdown pass from Jared Goff to Tyler Higbee late in the third quarter.

Higbee was wide open in the right flat on a third-down scoring pass after Saints defenders packed the middle in apparent anticipation of a run on third-and-goal from the 1.

The touchdown capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive highlighted by a 25-yard pass to Brandin Cooks and a 16-yard run by receiver Josh Reynolds to the New Orleans 1.

The score came after New Orleans had gone up 20-10 on its previous possession.

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5:05 p.m.

The New Orleans Saints have regained momentum early in the second half and widened their lead to 20-10 on a short touchdown catch by versatile third-string quarterback Taysom Hill.

After allowing the Rams to score the last 10 points of the first half, New Orleans' defense quickly forced a punt on Los Angeles' opening possession of the third quarter. After retaking possession, Saints methodically drove 71 yards with a mix of power runs by Mark Ingram and short receptions by Alvin Kamara.

Kamara caught four passes on the drive and has been the Saints' top receiver in the game with 10 receptions for 88 yards. Ingram rushed three times for 25 yards during the series, including a 16-yard carry.

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4:40 p.m.

The Rams have pulled to 13-10 at halftime following a two-minute drive highlighted by Jared Goff connections of 17 and 36 yards to former Saints first-rounder Brandin Cooks.

Cooks' longer reception along the right sideline set up Todd Gurley's 6-yard touchdown run.

The Saints opened up a 13-0 lead with a pair of Wil Lutz field goals and Drew Brees' 5-yard touchdown pass to seldom-used tight end Garrett Griffin on their first three possessions. New Orleans' second field goal was set up by linebacker Demario Davis' interception of a short pass that deflected off Gurley's hands.

But Los Angeles, which will receive to open the third quarter, responded with 10 points in the second quarter. The touchdown capped an 81-yard drive that took just 1:29 off the game clock.

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4:40 p.m.

The New Orleans Saints will be without tight end Josh Hill for the rest of the NFC championship game.

Hill left the game with a concussion after hauling in a 24-yard pass from Drew Brees.

While making the tackle, Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton delivered a forearm to Hill's head. No penalty was called, but Hill staggered off the field to be evaluated by the medical staff. Just before halftime, the Saints announced he was done for the game.

The loss of Hill led to a much bigger role in the offense for Garrett Griffin, who spent most of the season on the practice squad and had only one career catch coming into the game.

Griffin hauled in a 5-yard touchdown pass and finished the half with two catches for 12 yards.

— Paul Newberry reporting from New Orleans.

___

4:05 p.m.

A fake punt gave the Rams their first first down on their third possession and led to their first points of the game on a field goal.

Jonny Hekker's pass to Sam Shields along the right side caught the Saints off guard on fourth-and-5. The play sustained a drive that produced three more first downs before Los Angeles stalled on running back Todd Gurley's dropped pass inside the New Orleans 20.

Greg Zuerlein kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 13-3 with 9:45 left in the second quarter.

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3:45 p.m.

The Saints have taken a 13-0 lead on Drew Brees' 5-yard pass to seldom-used tight end Garrett Griffin. It was Griffin's first career TD and second career reception.

New Orleans used a little gamesmanship to sustain the drive after their third third-down failure in the red zone on three possessions to start the game. The first two ended in field goals. This time, they kept the offense on the field and drew the Rams' aggressive front offside for the first down.

Brees capitalized soon after, rolling right to buy time before Griffin came open running along the goal line.

___

3:25 p.m.

The Saints have converted an early turnover into a second field goal to take a 6-0 lead.

New Orleans' second possession began on the Rams 16 after Jared Goff's short pass over the middle deflected off running back Todd Gurley's hands and into the arms of Saints linebacker Demario Davis.

It marked the Saints' second time in the Rams' red zone, and the second time they stalled on third down with a short field. Wil Lutz, who kicked a 37-yard field goal on the opening drive, came back out to hit from 29 yards.

The silver lining for Los Angeles is that it trailed by only one TD after its defense held twice inside its 20.

___

3:15 p.m.

The New Orleans Saints have opened the NFC title game with a field goal after very nearly scoring a touchdown.

Drew Brees converted third-down passes of 9 yards to Ted Ginn and 21 yards to Alvin Kamara to sustain the drive, which stalled when tight end Dan Arnold was unable to hold on to a third-down pass in the back of the end zone.

Wil Lutz came on and connected from 37 yards to give the Saints a 3-0 lead.

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2:15 p.m.

There are no surprises among the Los Angeles Rams' and New Orleans Saints' inactive lists for the NFC championship game.

Both teams came in largely healthy and most of those not in uniform are healthy reserves.

The Saints already had ruled out receiver Keith Kirkwood with a calf injury that sidelined him during practice the past week. Kirkwood's absence comes one week after he caught a critical fourth-and-2 touchdown pass in New Orleans' comeback victory over Philadelphia in the divisional round.

Also scratched from New Orleans' lineup is veteran tight end Ben Watson, who has been ill this week. He is in the Superdome with the Saints and even could be seen stretching on the field, raising his prospects for returning if New Orleans advances to play in the Super Bowl in two weeks.

Los Angeles did not have a single player on its injury reports last week.

Here are the full inactive lists for both teams.

Rams: RB Justin Davis, OL Jamil Demby, OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DT Sebastian Joseph-Day, DT Tanzel Smart, DB Darious Williams and OLB Trevon Young.

Saints: TE Ben Watson (illness), WR Keith Kirkwood (calf), DL Tyrunn Walker, OL Will Clapp, LB Manti Te'o, OL Derek Newton and RB Dwayne Washington.

___

2 p.m.

The Los Angeles Rams are back inside the stadium where they lost for the first time this season, looking for retribution and a Super Bowl berth as they face the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game.

The Superdome is coming alive for the last time this football season as predominantly Saints fans arrive for just the second NFC title game to be held at the site of seven Super Bowls.

The previous time the Saints hosted a game this late in a season, they pulled out a hair-raising overtime triumph over Minnesota en route to their first Super Bowl appearance — and championship.

That was the 2009 season. Some nine seasons later, coach Sean Payton and 40-year-old, record-setting quarterback Drew Brees are back with a largely different cast, one victory away from the team's second trip to the NFL's biggest event.

When these teams met in Week 9, running back C.J. Anderson had not yet joined Todd Gurley in the Rams' backfield and Los Angeles cornerback Aqib Talib was not healthy enough to play. Their availability puts the Rams in a stronger position than they were in back on Nov. 4, when they fell to New Orleans 45-35.

This is the first NFC title game for Rams 32-year-old, second-year coach Sean McVay and his 24-year-old quarterback, Jared Goff.

On the AFC side, the New England Patriots are in their eighth consecutive conference championship game and trying to reach the Super Bowl for the fourth time in five seasons and the ninth time overall in the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era.

The Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, are hosting the AFC title game for the first time at Arrowhead Stadium, and are trying to get to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1969 season.

One thing that is unusual is that the Patriots are a slight underdog against the top-seeded Chiefs.

"We're going against a team that's the No. 1 seed in the league," Brady said after the team's final practice on Friday. "I'm sure there's a lot of people that are thinking they're going to win. Everyone can have their own opinion. We certainly have an opinion, and we've got to go out there and execute our best in order to accomplish that."

The winners that emerge from the conference championship games will meet in Atlanta on Feb. 3 in the Super Bowl.

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