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

December 13, 2012
Son of a gun: Roman learned pistol formation from the master

pistol.jpg

The 49ers gradually have been working the Pistol formation into their offense in recent weeks, but it's not a new concept to their coaches

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he drove to Reno two and half years ago when Roman was at Stanford to learn the concepts from the Dean of the Pistol Offense, Nevada coach Chris Ault. Naturally, the two watched film of the school's rising senior quarterback, some kid named Colin Kaepernick.

"That was very valuable time spent," Roman said. "(Ault) was very accommodating and it was very interesting as a coach to really learn something totally new."

In the Pistol, the quarterback is in the shotgun formation, but not as deep as he'd be in a traditional shotgun. There's also a tailback lined up up directly behind him, which means the quarterback can run with the ball, hand it off or throw it.

"I think you can gain a lot if they're willing to tell you," Roman said about the value of a face-to-face meeting with someone like Ault. "You can gain a lot - the upside, the downside. What do other teams do to try to stop it. And if they do that, what do you do? Every little nuance. ... Great information."

Back then, Ault and a handful of other colleges were running the Pistol. Nowadays, it's all the rage. Robert Griffin III and the Redskins gave it national attention when they used it extensively to beat the Giants on Monday Night Football. The Panthers have used it some with Cam Newton. The 49ers used several variations of it Sunday against the Dolphins. The 49ers don't call it "Pistol," however. That's one syllable too many, Roman said. "Instead they call it "Q."

"It's just another formation," Roman said. "There's a lot of different ways you can build formations and rebuild formations. ... We're just starting to tap into it now."

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Tight end Vernon Davis was held to just one catch against the Dolphins and has three catches for 19 yards in the last three games. Roman declined to say exactly how defenses are taking Davis out of the game.

"I'd say that they're paying a lot of attention to him at times," Roman said. "You know, on Kap's 50-yard run a couple of weeks ago (vs. St. Louis), there's 10 guys - Vernon ran that way - and there's 10 guys on that side of the field. So I think that kind of paints a
picture."

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The NFL's sacks leader says he will donate $5,099 per sack this season to the Boys & Girls clubs of San Francisco and East Palo Alto. The 49ers' Aldon Smith currently has 19 ½ sacks. He needs three and a half more to break Michael Strahan's single-season sack record set in 2001. If he finishes with, say, 23 sacks, he will donate $117,277 to be split between the two clubs.

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Smith again was one of four 49ers wearing black, no-contact jerseys during Thursday's practice. He, receiver Mario Manningham and fullback Bruce Miller are dealing with shoulder injuries. Special teams player Tavares Gooden has a rib injury. All four likely will be listed as "limited" on the practice report, although Manningham appeared to be more active than he was at the start of Wednesday's practice.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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