The Stack is back on this Thursday of Super Bowl week and there are a few stories that made headlines on Wednesday so let's get right to it and see what made "the stack" for today, Thursday, January 31:
Super Bowl storyline number five
Every year, there are defining moments for a team and the two teams in the Super Bowl this year, the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, are no exception. Sure both teams could have made it to this very spot had the ball not bounced a certain way or if they hadn't won a particular game, but the road would have been a lot more difficult. Excluding the playoffs and just focusing on the regular season, let's take a look at a couple plays that changed each team's season and is a major reason why they are playing for the Lombardi Trophy...
The San Francisco 49ers had a few big plays and moments this season. Their first one started right away at Green Bay in week 1. They were pretty dominant right from opening kickoff, but it was David Akers record tying 63-yard field goal right as the first half expired that helped propel the 49ers to a big win. They won 30-22 and had they not won that game, they would have had to travel to Green Bay for the playoffs instead of Green Bay traveling to San Francisco in the divisional round.
A fairly decent 24-13 whooping by the Minnesota Vikings in week 3 helped the 49ers re-gain focus as they crushed the New York Jets 34-0 the following week, but the next big season changing moment wouldn't happen until November 11, week 10 against the St. Louis Rams. For it was on that day that the fortunes of the 49ers appeared to change for what we know now was the better. Alex Smith got knocked out with a concussion in the first half; more accurately took himself out with concussion like symptoms and into the game came in second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. A lot of 49ers fans were in Smith's corner and wanted to see him succeed, particularly after the success of last season leading the 49ers to the NFC championship game against the New York Giants. The 49ers and the Rams ended up tying, a significant result in and of itself. Had the 49ers lost, the Seahawks would have won the division later in the year. The tie was a huge blessing in disguise for the 49ers, but a cloud of mystery surrounded the team regarding the health of Alex Smith.
The next week, on MNF against the Chicago Bears, Kaepernick started after head coach Jim Harbaugh made a late decision and Kaepernick shined. He destroyed the Bears as the 49ers won 32-7. He was on target, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns and it was his poise and "hot hand" as Harbaugh would later reference, that made him the starter for the rest of the year. Now, look at where he and the 49ers are now. In New Orleans trying to win Super Bowl XLVII. Don't know if it can get much more season defining than that.
For the Baltimore Ravens, they too have had some significant moments this season that have helped them reach New Orleans. Joe Flacco really set the tone for his season with a 299 yard, two touchdown performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in week 1. The major game was in week 3 when Torrey Smith put together a heroic effort just hours after learning of his brother's death. He caught 6 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Ravens offense, but they would need rookie kicker Justin Tucker to squeek a game-winning field goal just inside the right upright (a kick that some people today still feel like he didn't make) for the Ravens to win 31-30 over the New England Patriots and improve to 2-1.
The Ravens would eek by with a couple of close wins the next two weeks including a 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys in week 6 in which Ray Lewis tore his triceps. The season looked over for Lewis, maybe even his career. The Ravens certainly didn't look ready to play without their leader the next week as they were destroyed by the Houston Houston Texans 43-13. The Texans sure looked like the team to beat in the AFC, not the Ravens. Fortunately the bye came at just the right time for the Ravens.
They got their act together in a hurry, rattling off four wins coming out of the bye including a win at Pittsburgh, but it was the last of the four victories that truly defines their season. Down 13-10 late in the fourth and facing 4th and 29, Flacco got the ball in shotgun formation. He looked downfield. No one was open. Finally he checked it down to Ray Rice, who turned and charged upfield. He cut back and several San Diego Chargers took terrible angles to tackle Rice. He saw the opening, he saw the chains and lunged and picked up what looked to be a first down. A lengthy review concluded that Rice did indeed pick up the first down. The Ravens tied the game and later won it in overtime 16-13. In the postgame press conference, Rice dubbed the play "Hey diddle-diddle. Ray Rice up the middle." Very clever and very important as it would turn out. The Ravens lost three straight after that before winning a must win game at home against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. They lost a meaningless game to the Bengals to end the year, but had Rice not converted that 4th and 29 and the Ravens lost that game, the Bengals would have finished 10-6 and in first in the AFC North while the Ravens finished 9-7, winding up as the wild card. Sure the last game would have most likely been played differently, but "hey diddle-diddle, Ray Rice up the middle" is thee defining play, the defining moment for the Ravens in the regular season.
As we have found out, both teams have rode the wave of momentum to the Super Bowl in these playoffs whether it be on the legs of Colin Kaepernick or on the emotion of Ray Lewis amid his retirement announcement. But if not for a couple of big-time season altering plays, neither team may be in the spot they are now, a chance to win Super Bowl XLVII and hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Rudy Gay traded to the Raptors
In a move that isn't shocking, but definitely perplexing, the Memphis Grizzlies have traded Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors for forward Ed Davis and guard Jose Calderon. Calderon will then be traded to the Detroit Pistons for Tayshuan Prince and Austin Daye who will go to the Grizzlies. This move was clearly about taking money off the books for the Memphis Grizzlies. Gay was due to make a lot of money, over $50 million this season and the next two seasons. It seems though that this may weaken the Grizzlies this year. They had a chance to be one of the top four teams in the western conference. Sure they have struggled in recent weeks, but they still had a ton of talent on the team. They have good pieces like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but the loss of Gay will hurt them this year more than it will help them. This summer will be a different story.
The Raptors clearly see this as a golden opportunity to add a key piece and make a run at the playoffs, especially given the injury to Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics. They are currently 5.5 games out of the eight seed, but with half of the season remaining, the Raptors can definitely make that up. This will be interesting to see how the Raptors come together and make a run at the playoffs.
Tuiasosopo inteview to air Dr. Phil
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the mastermind behind the Lennay Kekua hoax, will have an interview by Dr. Phil McGraw aired Thursday on the "Dr. Phil" show. Already, some pretty interesting information is coming out. Tuiasosopo said that he fell in love with Manti Te'o through this hoax. When Dr. Phil asked if he was gay, Tuiasosopo said yes, before eventually saying that he was "confused." He also said that Te'o "absolutely, unequivocally" had no participation in the hoax whatsoever. This is going to be a pretty interesting interview to watch in its entirety. Surely there will be more that comes out of the interview and if it's anything like what we've heard so far, we're bound to laern a lot more.
Coming up Friday: Super Bowl XLVII preview and prediction