NEW ORLEANS -- No one appreciated Alabama's surprise onside kick more than Sean Payton -- the New Orleans Saints coach who made one of the gutsiest calls in Super Bowl history by doing the same thing six years ago against the Indianapolis Colts.
Payton said he was watching the national championship game live at home Monday night when coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide pulled off the perfectly executed surprise in the fourth quarter of their 45-40 win over Clemson.
"It was unbelievable," Payton said -- though he then cracked, "It was a lot less sweat."
The Saints' kick, which started the second half of Super Bowl XLIV, bounced off a Colts player and resulted in a mad scrum for the ball that took the officials several minutes to sort out.
"The difference, holy cow, it was well-executed. Easy to see," Payton said. "Ours collisioned off somebody and was in a pile for about eight minutes."
Payton said the only thing he wondered about was whether somebody from Alabama jumped offside -- especially since Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was passionately complaining about something to officials. Payton said he watched the replay a couple times to make sure.
"But the kick and catch was something else, wasn't it?" said Payton, who broke down why the play worked so well for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide lined up in their typical tight formation, with plenty of space between their widest player (Humphrey) and the right sideline. That alignment drew Clemson's players in tight as well. And as Payton pointed out, Alabama knew that "the wide guy for Clemson isn't going to be running laterally (toward the sideline)."
"The timing of it, it was a huge, huge play," Payton said. "I'm telling you what, it was significant in their win."
Payton said he watched the whole game -- in part because so many players from both teams are likely to be drafted. "And that game was fantastic," he said.