Ryan Shazier

Ryan Shazier, a second year linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers was all over the field on Sunday as the Steelers defeated the San Francisco 49’ers 43-18. He hounded and harassed 49’er QB Colin Kaepernick at every opportunity, sacking him once and making 15 tackles (11 solo). With the running threat of Kaepernick neutralized, the Steelers were able to focus on bottling up the rest of the Niner offense.

Shazier, out of Ohio State, is proving to be a very capable player showing excellent play diagnosis skills and the ability to track down and tackle even the most elusive runners.

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On this date 70 years ago, a B-29 Superfortress piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets ushered in the Atomic Age when the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The B-29, named Enola Gay after Tibbets’ mother, took off from the tiny island of Tinian accompanied by two other B-29’s containing instruments and cameras. The sky over the primary target, Hiroshima, was clear and the bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy” was dropped at 8:15AM.

The initial blast and subsequent firestorm caused by the sixteen kiloton explosion killed nearly a third of the population of the city, an estimated 70-80,000 people. Others succumbed to radiation poisoning in the months and years ahead.

There is much debate around the use of the atomic bomb to essentially end the war in the Pacific. While scenarios are argued over, there is no doubt that an invasion of the Japanese main islands would have cost many more lives than those taken by the atomic blasts and that the conventional firebombing of Tokyo was far more devastating to human life and property. Considering that 20,000 Japanese soldiers were killed and only 216 taken prisoner during the Battle of Iwo Jima, it is self-evident that the casualties to the Japanese people during an invasion would have been monumental. After a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, the Empire of Japan finally surrendered and World War II ended.

Not be be lost in this retrospective is the fact that the scientists working on the Manhattan Project were responsible for an incredible technical achievement in designing and building an air dropped atomic bomb in 3 years. Atomic technology was unknown before the Manhattan Project and then changed the world forever early on the morning of August 6th, 1945.

Pencil on Canson watercolor paper — click on the image for a larger version.

The Enola Gay now resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Centre where she has been carefully restored.

Iwo Jima Mount Suribachi

February 23, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima.

You can read the history of the brave Marines who took the tiny island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese in 1945 here. One of the most enduring images in history emerged from this conflict when Joe Rosenthal snapped the photo of a group of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi. It was actually the second flag raising that day, but it produced one of the most memorable images of WWII and one of the most reproduced photos of all time.

Iwo Jima became a haven for American B-29 bombers returning from sorties over Japan. The bloody battle for this little volcanic speck in the Pacific Ocean has become synonymous with the description of any titanic struggle. To gauge the magnitude of this conflict, we only need to recount this stark statistic: of the 22,000 Japanese soldiers stationed on Iwo Jima, only 216 were taken prisoner.

Pencil on Strathmore Multimedia board. Click on the image for a larger version.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots
After defeating the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers respectively, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks now square off in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Seahawks played a mediocre game against the Packers, but forced the Pack to settle for field goals on several trips inside the red zone. That left the door open for huge Seattle comeback in the fourth quarter as Russell Wilson found his groove (after throwing 4 interceptions) and Marshawn Lynch started rambling. A fortuitous onside kick recovery and a great throw by Wilson in overtime allowed the Seahawks to prevail.

The Patriots, on the other hand, dismantled a good Colts squad 45-7, but are now ensnared in one of the biggest controversies to hit the NFL, DeflateGate. Eleven of the twelve New England footballs were found to be underinflated which presumably gave the Pats an advantage gripping the ball, especially considering the weather conditions. This did not really affect the outcome, but anything that threatens the integrity of the game is taken very seriously by the league and its fans.

If the Seahawks play as poorly against New England as they played for most of the game against Green Bay, the Patriots will win big. However, New England needs to generate favorable matchups for Rob Gronkowski against the excellent set of linebackers and safeties that Seattle fields. Brady’s accurate passing will be going against what is probably the best secondary in the NFL, but injuries to both cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) will lessen their effectiveness. An X-factor could be running back LeGarrette Blount, who has the size to pound away at the Seattle front and has excelled in post-season games.

Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick will take away the best offensive option, which for Seattle would be running back Marshawn Lynch. The Pats will force Russell Wilson to win the game. New England will try to minimize Wilson’s scrambling out of the pocket as well.

As far as special teams go, it would seem to be a wash — each kicker and punter is very capable. A possible differentiator here might be Patriot punt returner Julian Edelmann, who is fearless in dashing up the field. A line drive punt by Seattle might be a deciding factor.

If the Patriots can force Wilson to throw from the pocket on defense and get Gronk open on offense, they should win the game. However, it should be a fairly close contest, New England 31, Seattle 24.

Watercolor on Strathmore Multimedia board. Click on the image for a larger version. You can also purchase a print here.

Ezekiel Elliott

The Ohio State Buckeyes crushed the Oregon Ducks in the first National Championship Game played following a four-team playoff, beating them 42-20. The high scoring Ducks opened the game with a long touchdown drive, capped by a touchdown pass from the Heisman-winning QB, Marcus Mariota. Oregon’s quick start proved to be a complete mirage, as the game then turned entirely in the Buckeye’s favor for most of the remainder of the contest. OSU drove for the tying touchdown, scored by Ezekiel Elliott on a 33-yard scamper. From there on in, Oregon’s offense seemed out of sync going against the Buckeyes and the Ohio State offense, led by its huge and talented offensive line, pushed the Ducks around. After the opening drive, Oregon was seldom able to get into the tempo of their “Blur” offense and mistakes and lack of execution on 3rd and 4th down caused several drives to fizzle. Oregon was particularly ineffective in the red zone, scoring only that opening TD and settling for field goals or turning the ball over on their other opportunities.

For the Buckeyes, Elliott capped off one of the great 3-game streaks in college football history, rushing for a three-game total of nearly 700 yards against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon.

In the championship game, Elliott ran 36 times for 246 yards and 4 touchdowns. He kept drives alive with 3rd- and 4th-down plunges and broke several long gainers that broke the back of the Oregon defense. Along with his teammate, Cardale Jones, Elliott turned in a postseason performance that catapulted the Buckeyes from the fringe of the playoff picture to National Champions. Ohio State returns many talented players next year, including Elliott and Jones, and must be considered the favorite to win it all again in 2015.

Watercolor on Strathmore Multimedia board. Click on the image for a larger version. This painting is also available from Fine Art America.

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