GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Alabama needed it all to win the toughest national title game it had ever played during the Nick Saban dynasty. All of its power. All of its speed.
Even one gutsy trick.
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Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard and Kenyan Drake hit No. 1 Clemson with long touchdowns, and Alabama outlasted the dynamic play of dual-threat quarterback Deshaun Watson to win the College Football Playoff championship 45-40 on Monday night.
The Crimson Tide (14-1) won its three previous championship game appearances in runaway fashion. This game was an instant classic - a relief for fans who sat through the blowouts that turned the New Year's Six lineup into a dud.
It finally broke open on perhaps the boldest call of Saban's career. With 10:34 left in the fourth quarter and Alabama having just tied the game with a short field goal, Saban took a gamble to try to keep the ball away from Watson and the Tigers. He called for an onside kick called Pop Kick from Adam Griffith and Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey caught it over the shoulder at midfield.
CINCINNATI (AP) - Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the first three games of next season as the NFL began handing down punishments for an ugly wild-card playoff game.
The league also is reviewing the conduct of other players and coaches during Pittsburgh's 18-16 victory at Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night that turned on penalties against Burfict and Bengals cornerback Adam ''Pacman'' Jones in the final minute.
Burfict was penalized for lowering his shoulder and hitting defenseless receiver Antonio Brown in the head after an incompletion with 22 seconds left and the Bengals holding a 16-15 lead. Brown got a concussion from the play.
Burfict had already been fined four times for dangerous plays during the season.
CLEVELAND (AP) - The Browns' coaching search has gone strangely silent.
After interviewing seven candidates last week, the team did not conduct any meetings, a break that could indicate owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have someone in mind to become their eighth coach since 1999.
Or they could just be catching their breath.
Cleveland's search committee was back at the team's headquarters to regroup after a busy few days talking to prospective coaches.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Eagles completed an interview with Tom Coughlin for their coaching vacancy.
Coughlin is a two-time Super Bowl champion, who stepped down last week after 12 seasons with the New York Giants. He previously coached Jacksonville from 1995-2002.
The Eagles have interviewed six candidates since firing Chip Kelly on Dec. 29. Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson have interviewed. Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase also interviewed before he took the job in Miami.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The New York Giants have interviewed former Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith for their head coaching job.
The Giants said that Smith met with team president John Mara and general manager Jerry Reese.
Smith is the sixth person to interview for the job that opened a week ago when Tom Coughlin stepped down after 12 seasons.
Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and defensive counterpart Steve Spagnuolo were the first two to interview. Jacksonville assistant and former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Auston and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase also interviewed before getting hired by the Dolphins.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - Stephen Curry and the rest of Golden State's starters struggled to pull away from Miami.
Then with Curry and Co. starting the fourth quarter on the bench, the Warriors' reserves did the trick.
Marreese Speights shook off 36 minutes of rust to score the first six points of the fourth quarter to help the Warriors take control and go on to their 36th straight regular-season home win, 111-103 over the Heat.
CHICAGO (AP) - Bulls center Joakim Noah returned from a shoulder injury against Washington, providing another option for coach Fred Hoiberg heading into a busy stretch.
Noah sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter of a 105-102 loss to Brooklyn on Dec. 21. The 6-foot-11 reserve missed nine straight games before he entered with 4:33 left in the first quarter against the Wizards, drawing a big cheer from the crowd at the United Center.
Noah went 0 for 7 from the field in a little under 19 minutes, but also had nine rebounds, four assists and a steal in Chicago's 114-100 loss.
NEW YORK (AP) - Kansas and Oklahoma, who played one of the season's best games last week, remain 1-2 in the men's Top 25 basketball poll by The Associated Press.
The Jayhawks (14-1) beat the Sooners 109-106 in triple overtime. They received all but two first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. It is the second week at No. 1 for Kansas.
Oklahoma (13-1) drew one No. 1 vote. It was followed by Maryland and Michigan State (16-1), which had the other first-place vote. North Carolina is fifth followed by Villanova, Xavier, Miami, Duke and SMU.
SMU is in the top 10 for the first time since February 1985. The Mustangs (15-0) and No. 19 South Carolina (15-0) are the only unbeaten Division I teams. SMU is ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA rules violations.
DALLAS (AP) - Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown was back on the court, directing No. 10 SMU's practice a day after missing the second half of a game for the undefeated Mustangs.
During the two-hour practice, Brown was actively involved, shouting and pointing out things to his players. Even at the end, the coach was making passes for some players to work on different shots.
The practice came after the Mustangs (15-0) moved up five spots in the new Associated Press Top 25 poll, getting into the top 10 for the first time since February 1985.
NEW YORK (AP) - UConn remains No. 1 in The Associated Press women's basketball poll after a busy week that saw the Huskies win all three of their games by double-digits.
They beat Tulsa, Houston and South Florida to stay undefeated. UConn was once again followed by South Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas and Ohio State.
While the top of the poll stayed consistent, four new teams entered the Top 25 this week as Florida, Miami, Louisville and Southern California all got ranked.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees manager Joe Girardi says newly acquired left-hander Aroldis Chapman will go into spring training as New York's closer.
During an interview on the YES Network, Girardi revealed he is choosing the hard-throwing Chapman over Andrew Miller.
The Yankees obtained the 27-year-old Chapman, a four-time All-Star, from the Reds last month for four minor leaguers after Cincinnati's deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers fell through when it was learned Florida police investigated an accusation of domestic violence involving the Cuban pitcher.
Major League Baseball is currently investigating, and Chapman could face a suspension under the sport's new domestic violence policy.