The New England Patriots took a step nearer their fourth Super Bowl appearance in six years with a remarkable 24-21 triumph in San Diego on Sunday night. The Chargers had boasted the best record in the National Football League, with 14 wins, but despite home advantage, and the presence of the season's Most Valuable Player, the running back LaDanian Tomlinson, they were undone by the Patriots' superior big game experience.
Their quarterback, Tom Brady, guided his side to two scoring drives inside the final four minutes, and confirmed victory when Stephen Gostkowski converted a 31-yard field goal with 70 seconds remaining.
The win continued an extraordinary record for Brady and his head coach, Bill Belichick. Together, they have won 12 of their 13 post-season games, and some will favour them to prevail again when they visit Indianapolis next Sunday.
Also through to the final four are the Chicago Bears, who will entertain New Orleans next Sunday, following their 27-24 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
Play-off matches (Sunday): NFC New Orleans at Chicago; AFC New England at Indianapolis.
* An announcement is expected this morning to confirm that the NFL will stage a regular season game in London in September or October this year.Reuse content