Greg Zuerlein kicked a 57-yard field goal in overtime Sunday to send the Los Angeles Rams into Super Bowl 53 with a 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
The Rams, who fell behind 13-0, made their greatest NFL playoff comeback and never led until Zuerlein kicked the longest playoff field goal in team history to win the National Conference final.
“Unbelievable. Can’t find the words,” said Rams quarterback Jared Goff. “To be down 13-0, the defense to play the way they did. And our kicker made a 57-yard field goal. Unbelievable.”
The Rams advanced to the February 3 NFL championship spectacle in Atlanta against New England Patriots, the winner of the American Conference final.
Rams coach Sean McVay, who turns 33 on Thursday, became the youngest coach to reach the Super Bowl.
“It’s a credit to the people you have around you,” McVay said. “Our team demonstrated great mental toughness. It was a tough start. We had confidence and we got it done. It was a great win.”
The Rams seek their fourth NFL crown but their first for Los Angeles in the Super Bowl era. The team won NFL titles in 1945 based in Cleveland, 1951 based in Los Angeles and by winning the 2000 Super Bowl while based in St. Louis. The franchise lost two other Super Bowl trips in 1980 (Los Angeles) and 2002 (St. Louis).
“I’m so happy and proud for the players and coaches and so happy for the city of Los Angeles,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said.
The Saints received the ball to open the extra period but Rams linebacker Dante Fowler hit quarterback Drew Brees as he threw and safety John Johnson picked off the awkward lob while falling onto his back.
That lone New Orleans turnover set up Zuerlein’s winner after he made earlier field goals from 36, 24 and 48 yards.
“I’m proud of our defense,” said Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. “We’ve got one more to take care of. I was crying on the bench. I’ve never been this excited.”
‘It’s a tough call’
The Saints, who beat the Rams 45-35 in the regular season at New Orleans, were deadlocked late at 20-20 when Brees lofted a long pass that Ted Ginn Jr. grabbed for a 43-yard gain to the Rams 13-yard line.
A controversial no-penalty call on third down when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints intended receiver Tommylee Lewis led to a 31-yard Wil Lutz field goal to give the Saints a 23-20 lead, but it also gave Los Angeles 1:41 to respond.
The Rams drove to set up Zuerlein’s 48-yard equalizer with 15 seconds remaining to force overtime, leaving Saints coach Sean Payton upset at officials well after the last whistle.
“They felt like the player arrived at the same time the ball did,” Payton said. “It was an interference call. It was a tough call when you’re in a position to go the Super Bowl.
“Credit the Rams. They made the plays when they had to. I’m proud of our team. They accomplished a lot. It’s just disappointing to get to this stage and not get any farther.”
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