Bill Belichick shows true appreciation for an epic college football championship

Mike Petraglia
January 10, 2017 - 5:31 am

[caption id="attachment_115841" align="alignright" width="400"] It was a disappointing end for Bill Belichick's close friend Nick Saban in Monday's national championship game. (John David Mercer/USA Today Sports)[/caption] FOXBORO -- When there's a great football game on, Bill Belichick will gladly sacrifice some sleep, especially when he's not just watching it as a fan but as a possible consumer down the road. Such was the case early Tuesday morning when Clemson beat Alabama, 35-31, in the 2017 national championship game in Tampa, a game that ended at about 12:20 a.m. "I saw a little bit of it. I did see the end of it," Belichick said nine hours later in his Tuesday morning press conference. Why was Belichick so interested in a college game just five days before a playoff game against the Texans? "I have personal interest in the game," Belichick said, referring to his friendship with Alabama coach Nick Saban. "We'll see what it looks like in a couple of months but I would say there are a lot of good football players on the field, some of whom I knew about, some of whom I'm going to need to find out more about. I remember watching that game last year and then watching it probably, had to be at least ten times in the offseason because there's so many players. "So the ones that played last year that didn't play this year are being replaced by guys that are going to be a factor in the NFL who are now draft-eligible, and you're getting to see them against other players against comparable [talent]. Whether they're draft-eligible or not, the guys that are playing in this game are pretty good. If they're not draft-eligible this year, they'll be draft-eligible next year or soon the year after. So competitively, it's a great game to watch. It was a great game to watch last year and I'm sure it'll be the same this year, just from that standpoint. Just from a competitive standpoint, two great teams, two great programs and again, just coming down to a play." There were two plays that must've struck a cord with Belichick from his team's 2014 run to a Super Bowl title. With three minutes remaining, after Alabama converted a fourth-down, the Crimson Tide executed a double-pass that got them down deep into Clemson territory. On the next play, quarterback Jalen Hurts raced for the go-ahead touchdown that put Alabama up, 31-28. Then, with six seconds left, Clemson got down to the Alabama 2 and ran a pick play that caught slot corner Marlon Humphrey out of position, allowing DeShaun Watson to find Hunter Renfrow for the championship-winning TD. It's what might have happened had Malcolm Butler not been able to jump the route on the final play of Super Bowl XLIX. "When you've got a lot of points scored like that, it's a lot of plays but in the end, it's one or two plays that go the other way, it'd be a different result," Belichick noted Tuesday. "But that's the level of competition we're talking about." Belichick acknowledged the double-pass brought back memories from another 35-31 game, New England's win over Baltimore in the AFC divisional round in Jan. 2015. "Yeah, again games like that, any play can be a big play, whether it's a conventional play, unconventional play," Belichick noted. "Just a great player making a great play or a situation play, 4th-and-1. In the end, the national championship came down to a yard. We've been in that situation before, both ways, so. "I think that's the kind of football you see at this time of year, whether it be the national championship level or the NFL playoffs. You get a lot of games like that that come down to one play, one yard. It defines an entire season. You've got to be prepared for that."