Monday, January 15, 2007

Pats Down Chargers; Bears Pull Out OT Wins

Chicago 27, Seattle 24 OT
Robbie Gould won it after Rex Grossman didn't lose it and the Chicago Bears are back in the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 18 years. Two swings of the foot by their All-Pro kicker - the final one a 49-yard field goal 4:58 into overtime - offset any shortcomings in Grossman's passing and pushed the Bears to the victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The Bears will now host the Saints in the NFC title game. Chicago has not been to the Super Bowl since January 1986 and New Orleans never has been that far. Seattle got the ball first in overtime, but Chicago's Israel Idonije forced an 18-yard punt by Ryan Plackemeier with a strong rush. Grossman hit Rashied Davis for a third-down pass of 30 yards to the Seattle 36, and the Bears (14-3) moved into position for the winning points. Gould, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and is now headed to the Pro Bowl, hit the 49-yarder, setting off a wild celebration at Soldier Field. Earlier, he tied the game at 24, with a 41-yarder with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter. He made his first 24 field goals this season, and 32 of 36 overall. The Seahawks (10-8), ravaged by injuries throughout the season, got a strong performance from Shaun Alexander. Alexander, who missed the first meeting between the teams, a 37-6 Chicago win in October, gained 108 yards and gave the Bears defense a tough time. He had a pair of touchdowns runs.

New England 24, San Diego 21
Tom Brady, as cool as ever, delivered every time the San Diego Chargers gave him another chance. Already a three-time Super Bowl winner, his shot at a fourth is very much alive after the New England Patriots shocked league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers on Sunday, winning to advance to the AFC championship game. Brady overcame three interceptions, his career playoff high, to lead the Patriots to 11 points in 3:26 late in the game. He and coach Bill Belichick now have a 12-1 postseason record together, and need to win at Indianapolis next Sunday to make their fourth Super Bowl trip in six seasons. As tough a win as it was for New England, it was a gut-wrenching loss for San Diego and its coach, Marty Schottenheimer, whose job could be in jeopardy after his career postseason record tumbled to 5-13. Tomlinson ran for 123 yards and two scores, and caught two passes for 64 yards. The winning points came on a 31-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 1:10 left. That capped a 72-yard drive highlighted by a 49-yard pass to Caldwell, who left the Chargers as a free agent after last season. With the Patriots trailing 21-13, Brady threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to the wide-open Caldwell with 4:36 to play. The Patriots tied it on a tricky 2-point conversion, snapping the ball directly to running back Kevin Faulk, who was standing next to Brady and ran through the middle of the line. San Diego's Pro Bowl kicker Nate Kaeding was short on a 54-yard field goal try with 3 seconds left.

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