ATLANTA -- Reuben Foster went from resembling Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis during his MVP performance to giggling like a child as specks of blue, yellow and gold confetti fell from the sky and coated his pearly white Alabama uniform.
These three terrifying stalwarts of the nation's No. 1 defense were giddy after the couple hours of mayhem they caused, inflicting bone-crunching hits or soul-snatching picks. These three kings were all instrumental in yet another dominant defensive performance that handed No. 1 Alabama a commanding 54-16 SEC title victory over No. 15 Florida in the final SEC championship played in the Georgia Dome.
Once all the confetti had fallen, Alabama (13-0) held Florida to just 261 yards (70 in the second half) and zero net rushing yards. After giving up three third-down conversions on the Gators' opening drive, Alabama allowed just four more all game.
"We were just playing this game like animals all day, man," linebacker Tim Williams said. "You just have to open up and be a beast. That's what we have on this defense: straight predators."
Like any ruthless, hostile animal, Alabama's defense lost its footing at times. It allowed a touchdown on its opponent's opening drive for the first time since the 2015 Ole Miss game and watched Florida, which entered the day with the SEC's second-worst statistical offense, march 92 yards for a first-half-closing touchdown drive and start the third quarter with a 64-yard drive that made it to the 2-yard line.
After Florida's opening drive, Alabama's defense responded on the Gators' next possession with an interception that led to a field goal. A drive later, Fitzpatrick set a school record with his fourth career pick-six by taking an off-target Austin Appleby pass 44 yards for a score.
"This group, we've scored more nonoffensive touchdowns this year, I think, than any team I've ever been associated with," coach Nick Saban said. "I think it speaks to the playmaker-type guys that we have, the good job the coaches do putting them in position."
This defense, even with all its bend at times Saturday, was unbreakable in the second half. Alabama watched four plays inside the 5-yard line result in zero points for the Gators (8-4) because Florida tried to play man-to-man, smashmouth football with a brick wall. When a third-down leap by running back Jordan Scarlett near the goal line was swallowed up by a platoon of white shirts, Florida went to the air a play later, only to come up empty.
Alabama's own Legion of Doom bristled, puffed its chest and blew the Gators right back down to earth, setting up the offense's backbreaking, 98-yard drive that clinched the game with a 14-point swing that gave Alabama a 40-16 lead late in the third quarter.
Late in the fourth, the starters were already partying on the sideline as the reserves got their crack at championship glory.
"The defensive goal is to make sure the young guys eat," Williams said. "For the young guys to eat, the defense and the offense have to run the points up."
In a game many thought didn't really matter in the grand College Football Playoff scheme of things, Alabama continued to do the very things that got it to Atlanta, and possibly earned the Tide a return trip at the end of the month. Saban always stresses about complacency and how it can torment even the most talented teams, but in 2016, Alabama has been complacency's worst nightmare.
Florida was overmatched in every sense of the word Saturday, and it could have been a perfect time for the 24-point favorites to be sluggish and just kind of lumber through a victory. And while Alabama's offense got off to a slow start and the defense surrendered that opening touchdown, the Crimson Tide responded to mistakes with torturous big plays.
What's so frightening about this Alabama team is that when its offense wasn't playing like its explosive self, the defense stepped in and took right over. Alabama scored two more nonoffensive touchdowns Saturday, bringing its season total to 13 and making it perfectly OK to say Alabama's defense/special teams is one of the SEC's best scoring outfits.
There were the back-to-back Florida possessions that ended with Alabama interceptions after Florida's opening scoring drive.
The defense and special teams showed off when the offense couldn't really show up as we're used to seeing. Alabama had three interceptions by halftime, and its special teams complemented that blocked punt by sniffing out a poorly executed fake punt deep in Florida territory in the second quarter.
Champions are defined by wins. Flash is great, but it isn't a requirement. On Saturday, Alabama's flash came without it needing to have the football in its hands much. In fact, Alabama lost time of possession by more than 10 minutes, yet still boat raced Florida in championship form.
What makes Alabama so good and such a heavy favorite to win the national championship is exactly what we saw from it Saturday evening -- a team that can overpower an opponent even when a major limb isn't performing to its usual elite standard.
And while that comes from elite development of spectacular talent, it also comes from an unrivaled mind-set that boosts what we see on the field. Much of that comes in turn from the unrelenting defense that helped make an SEC title three-peat possible and has the Tide in the national championship driver's seat.
"This game was won on Monday," Williams said. "We prepare different from everybody."