49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 19, 2012
Film review: Pistol effective vs. Pats, Crabtree and McDonald stand out


The 49ers dialed their pistol or "Q" formation 17 times Sunday against the Patriots, using it extensively on their opening drive that resulted in a touchdown. In the formation, quarterback Colin Kaepernick is in the shotgun, but he's shallower than he is in a normal shotgun formation. The tailback is 2 ½ yards directly behind him, allowing Kaepernick to throw, to hand off or run with the ball.

Three of the six plays on that drive were out of the pistol, including a 13-yard pass from Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree and a 12 yarder to Randy Moss. From that point, however, the 49ers mostly ran the ball out of the formation. Of the 15 other pistol plays, only one more, which resulted in a 35-yard pass interference penalty on the Patriots, was a pass play.

Overall, the pass plays run out of the pistol averaged 20 yards; the running plays averaged 3.5 yards.

The defensive player of the game? How about left defensive end Ray McDonald, who penetrated the Patriots offensive line both early and late. NaVorro Bowman tackled Stevan Ridley for a two-yard loss on 3rd and 1 on the Patriots' opening possession, but it was McDonald who beat his man and gave Bowman the opening.

McDonald also was good after his counterpart, Justin Smith, had left the game with an arm injury. He had two late sacks and harassed Tom Brady on the critical four-and-out drive after the 49ers had retaken the lead. In addition to his two sacks, McDonald had two quarterback hits and two tackles for loss.

The offensive player? Kaepernick's an excellent choice. Crabtree is, too. He caught seven passes for 107 yards and had two touchdowns. Also, a prima donna doesn't make that first touchdown catch, which came with two Patriots defensive backs closing in on either side of him. It was a gutsy throw and an even gutsier catch.

If it seemed like Tarell Brown was being picked on, he was. Brady and the Patriots gained 147 yards on passes against Brown, including a 38-yard pass-interference penalty in the end zone. Most of the passes were to Brandon Lloyd, who mostly was on the left side of the Patriots formation and thus lined up against Brown.

Then again, Brady and Lloyd also did damage on the other side. They hooked up on a 53-yard pass play against Chris Culliver in the fourth quarter. It was the longest offensive play of the game and led to the Patriots' game-tying touchdown.

Normally sure-handed Ted Ginn nearly had two disastrous plays. It's remarkable how similar they were to the muffed punts by Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship game, which also was played in the rain. Ginn failed to get out of the way of a bouncing punt that came within a nanometer (that's small, right?) of glancing off his foot/ankle. He also muffed a late Patriots punt but was able to fall on the ball.

Ginn is in the final year of his contract, and my sense is that the 49ers won't make a play to have him back. LaMichael James has been very good at kick returns, and the 49ers likely will have him become their primary punt returner as well.

On the flip side of special teams, Andy Lee had a monster game, averaging 56.6 yards and netting 54 yards over five attempts. None of those punts was more critical than Lee's last, which went 59 yards and was returned to the New England 18. A penalty backed the Patriots to their 3-yard line, which is where the four-and-out series began.

Photo from Reddit.com

- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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