Introducing more of the Pistol offense

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Here are two more successful plays that are also ran out of the Pistol formation. The first is from the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons and the second is from the Thanksgiving match up between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys. Just like the 49ers, the Redskins and Robert Griffin III run the Pistol very well. After drafting RGIII, coach Mike Shannahan went down to Baylor to visit with head coach Art Briles to learn more about the Pistol offense. The Redskins are a good example of a team that uses the passing game very well out of the Pistol, due to RGIII’s supreme arm strength and dual threat ability.

Counter: Once again, here are the 49ers running the three back “diamond” formation out of the Pistol. They used the same formation and same personnel when they ran the lead play, with Frank Gore (#21) behind Kaepernick and their two tight ends, Vernon Davis (#85) and Delanie Walker (#46) as lead blockers. This is blocked the same in Pistol as it would be in any other formation, as it is your basic counter play.

Counter 1.5Gore has a great hole to run through because Vernon Davis kicks out the defensive end and the pulling guard  gets to the second level to block the linebacker. Walker should have gotten inside the hole a little quicker, but with a patient back like Gore the play is still a success.

counter 2.5Gore’s patience allows Walker to double team the linebacker and he follows his blockers for a solid gain of six yards on first down. If Gore was a bit more explosive he may have been able to gain a few more yards but you cannot complain about a six yard gain and a well executed play.

Counter 3.5


Play Action: Here is a good example of how the Redskins used play action against the Cowboys for a big play on Thanksgiving. The ‘Skins lined up in their diamond formation out of the Pistol, with two backs and a tight end in the backfield along with RGIII. With RGIII’s running ability and Alfred Morris’ success running the ball, you can see that the Cowboy’s are expecting run from this formation.

Play action 1When RGIII fakes the hand off to Morris, you can see the entire secondary stop to play the run. The lead blockers in the backfield and the RGIII/ Morris combination have effectively fooled the defense into thinking that they are running a lead play, while the two receivers are effectively running their routes. I am guessing that the top receiver is more of a decoy to keep the corner and the safety on his side of the field occupied, while the receiver at the bottom (Aldrick Robinson) is about to take advantage of the over aggressive safety that is peeking into the backfield.

play action 2Now that it is known that the ‘Skins are passing the ball, the secondary is already beat. Both of the safeties stopped their feet while Robinson has been running full speed and is about to defeat this cover 4 by the Cowboys. The safety on Robinson’s side should have read play action and dropped back, not stopped his feet to make a play on the running back. The top receiver has done his job to sell the route to the other safety and now the deep post will be wide open.

play action 3The safety on Robinson’s side is responsible for this easy touchdown but it was all set up by the Redskins’ effectiveness of running the ball and setting up play action.

play action 4In cover 4, it would be on the safety to stay inside on Robinson, as it would be impossible for the corner to cover this post alone. The safety was clearly looking in the backfield and stopped his feet, which allowed this easy 65 yard touchdown pass.

play action 5


Just like any other formation, play action is set up by a successful running game. If the Buckeyes use a lot of Pistol and have success in the running game, it opens up big plays like the one above. We all know the running game will be successful with Miller, Hyde and the plethora of running backs, so we shall see if Miller’s arm has improved to take shots down field against an overly aggressive defense.

If there are anymore play suggestions that you would like for me to breakdown, leave them in the comments!


  1. Chris, thanks for the screen shots and detailed explanation. Really looking forward to OSU trying this scheme



  1. […] we see a lot of the diamond formation? Urban Meyer loved what the 49ers and Redskins did with it last year and will look to unveil it […]

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