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Alabama Defense Stifles Georgia in SEC Championship Victory

While the Bulldogs converted both of its red-zone possessions in the first half, they were only able to convert one of its three trips in the second half.

ATLANTA — While Alabama's high-flying offense might steal the majority of the headlines from the Crimson Tide's 41-24 SEC Championship Game victory over the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, defense was ultimately what won the title for Alabama.

In total, the Crimson Tide held the Bulldogs to 449 total yards on offense and only 109 rushing yards. While Georgia picked up 30 first downs, Alabama held its opponent to convert just three of its 12 third-down attempts. On fourth down, the Bulldogs were 2 of 4.

"I think we did a great job communicating and being on the same page," Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle said after the game. "Like I said this week in practice, that was the main thing, preparing mentally because physically we've got all the intangibles, all the everything. So just being on the same page every play is a big key factor in the game because, when you give up big plays, that's on us.

"I think we did a great job focusing on having one mind today. Actually, we talked about that in chapel before the game, having one mind. I want to give a big shoutout to Jeremiah Castille, former player at Alabama. Thank you."

In the first half, the Alabama defense held Georgia to 220 total yards, including just 52 rushing yards. The second half was much of the same, with the Crimson Tide holding the Bulldogs to 229 total yards and 57 yards on the ground.

While there wasn't much difference in the total offensive yards for Georgia between the two halves, the points told a different story. The Bulldogs scored two touchdowns and a field goal in the first half to total 17 points in the first 30 minutes, while the second half saw Georgia score just one lone touchdown in the fourth quarter.

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The key difference in the game that led to less points despite similar yardage was Alabama's red zone defense. While Georgia was 2-2 in the first half, scoring a touchdown and a field goal early to go up 10-0, the second half told a different story. In its three trips to the red zone in the second half, the Bulldogs scored on just one of its possessions.

On Georgia's first possession of the second half, Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams intercepted Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett on the 12 yard line. On the very next Georgia drive, the Bulldogs failed to convert on fourth and 9 on the Crimson Tide 19-yard line, with Bennett's pass falling incomplete in the end zone.

"I think that you try to change the picture as much as you can and make the quarterback try to make decisions after he gets the ball in his hand," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "Stetson Bennett to me is very instinctive, very good player. If he knows what the picture is — and I couple times tonight when he knew what the picture was — that's when he made plays, and several big plays.

"So I think us changing the picture on him a little bit helped. We have to play the ball better in the deep part of the field."

On Georgia's first drive of the fourth quarter — the Bulldogs' very next possession — Battle intercepted Bennett and returned the ball 42 yards for a touchdown. The play signified the beginning of the end for the Bulldogs, and while Georgia was able to salvage a touchdown on its next drive, the pick six game the Crimson Tide the momentum is needed to close out the game.

On the night, Bennett finished the game having completed 29 of 48 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but his two crucial interceptions in the second half were a key factor that gave Alabama the edge it needed to win the game.

"We've had a couple of those the last couple of weeks that are things that we need to do better, but all in all, I think that was probably the one thing that helped it the most,” Saban said. " Pass rush always helps you. If you get good pass rush. We affected him in the pocket. He scrambled some, which is — you hate, but you're also affecting a guy when you do that because you're not throwing the ball on time."