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How the Pistol Offense is changing the NFL

Stashed in: 49ers!, Football, Colin Kaepernick

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Chris Brown of breaks down the pistol offense beloved of young running quarterbacks.

Direct link to SmartFootball article:

From the December 9 Dolphins-Niners game:

49ers Niners Pistol formation Colin Kaepernick

The 49ers also lined up in the Pistol set, with Frank Gore behind Colin Kaepernick, but instead of just one fullback they used two, one on either side of the quarterback. (These were actually tight-ends, but they played the role of fullbacks.) This is the “Diamond formation,” which first became popular during the 2010 season when Oklahoma State used it with great success (though their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, was no running threat), and has since been picked up elsewhere. Against the Dolphins, the 49ers used the exact same concept as the Redskins, but with two “arcing” lead blockers instead of only one.

Kaepernick and Gore both opened to their left, with Kaepernick reading the Dolphins’ backside defensive end. But, unlike the Ravens, who keyed on Griffin, the Dolphins defense was almost entirely focused on Frank Gore plunging into the line. Kaepernick kept the ball himself, and darted away to find nothing but green grass and a wide open field. The result was a 50-yard touchdown run and, more importantly, a win for the 49ers.

I will never forget that December 16 Patriots-49ers game:

watched a good football game the other day. One team built a big lead over the other with a dizzying array of strategies: shifts, motions, multiple formations, and even read-option plays, where the quarterback decided whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself based on the defense’s movement. With the score 31-3, I nearly stopped watching.

Then the trailing team sprang to life, scoring four touchdowns in less than a quarter, tying the game 31-31, by throwing the ball 65 times using three, four and five receiver sets and a frenetic no-huddle pace. The comeback failed, however, as the team that once led by 28 points responded with a quick touchdown of their own, and won 41-34. It was a good game, but an odd one.

After years of stagnation, the NFL is using new variations on the read-option, no-huddle and all manner of other new offensive strategies.

It's awesome.

I never realized how connected the Broncos, 49ers, and Redskins are:

In the NFL, however, under the direction of head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and with Griffin at quarterback, the Redskins have made extensive use of Ault’s creation. When Mike Shanahan was head coach of the Denver Broncos, he melded the West Coast offense he’d used to win a Super Bowl with the zone blocking schemes offensive line coach Alex Gibbs brought from the San Francisco 49ers [source].Those schemes remain the foundation of the Shanahan-Redskins attack today. The Shanahans, in search of some way to mesh Griffin’s special talents with the zone blocking schemes they’d made famous nearly 20 years earlier, settled on the Pistol attack created by Ault as the centerpiece of their offense.

It's worked. Although the Redskins’ leaky defense and a few close losses have them at 8-6, they have arguably the most efficient offense in the NFL, fourth in total yards and leading the league with 6.2 yards per play. Another rookie, sixth-round draft choice Alfred Morris, is third in the league in rushing, while Griffin is second in the league in passing rating, a remarkable performance by a rookie quarterback. Although Pistol offense schemes are a big part of the Redskins’ identity, it’s not all they do. Their key to success has been that the Shanahans have found a way to blend the new schemes with what they’ve had success with for many years in the NFL, creating something that is a perfect fit for their uniquely talented rookie quarterback.

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