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Drawing the pistol: Trent Dilfer says it's bigger than a fad

By Tim Graham

NEW ORLEANS -- Trent Dilfer was unequivocal when asked if the pistol offense and read-option runs were here to stay.

"Without a doubt," Dilfer said about the offense that's helped propel the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII.

Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and the quarterback when the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl 12 years ago, sees a significant tactical advantage for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tonight.

The 49ers' defense, meanwhile, should have an easier time with Joe Flacco and a predictable Ravens attack.

"This pistol offense and what the Niners are doing creates a tremendous tactical advantage," Dilfer said. "Because of that, Joe's going to be playing against AP calculus, and Colin's going to be playing against pre-algebra."

Dilfer, speaking at the Super Bowl XLVII media center, began to arrange microphones and water bottles on his table like defensive chess pieces.

"What the Niners will do in terms of manipulating their 11 on defense and changing Joe's looks is as complex as you can go through," Dilfer said. "It's a great challenge.

"What Colin will go through are defined training-camp looks. Guys are going to line up here and here and here and stay stationary. He's going to be able to predict where they're going."

Dilfer was effusive in his praise of the pistol formation and what it can do for a team.

"The pistol enhances all your other plays that you've been running forever," Dilfer said. "It enhances your play-action. It enhances your zone game. It enhances your power game. It enhances your movement game.

"The zone-read part of the pistol creates automatic angles for your tackles. I talked to [49ers tackles] Anthony Davis and Joe Staley about this, and they said, 'Our lives have changed forever because we have an automatic advantage almost every snap we take in the pistol because we have these incredible angles.'

"Oh, and by the way, they can throw the ball out of it. And there's wide-open passing lanes out of it because there's so much attention trying to cheat the side they think the zone read is coming to."

Dilfer predicted the pistol will not be a fad like the Wildcat.

"You're going to hear a lot of really smart defensive people say, 'Oh, it'll go away. It'll become extinct. We'll hit the quarterback,' " Dilfer said.

"Get into a room with an offensive-centric coach and a defensive-centric coach. At the end of the conversation, the defensive centric coach usually leaves with his tail between his legs because we always have an answer for what you think your answer is."


Colin Kaepernick | Joe Flacco | Super Bowl XLVII | Trent Dilfer
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |