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Roman's play-calling stokes Niners' offensive firepower

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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By Dan Arkush

As impressive as the Niners’ record-shattering offensive performance was in Week Five in their 45-3 dismantling of the Bills — becoming the first team in league history to gain over 300 yards both on the ground and in the air in the same game — longtime team sources aren’t quite ready to declare the current offense a juggernaut on a par with the units that thrived under Joe Montana and Steve Young.

“I don’t see them gaining 600 yards every week, but things really are coming together in the second year of this system,” said one source. “As far as (QB) Alex Smith goes, you’re seeing now that, when he is really comfortable and gets to know what he’s doing, all you have to do is sit back and watch out. He was the first overall pick for a reason. He’s extremely smart, and he’s always had all the tools.”

What Smith hasn’t always had is the devilishly creative play-calling courtesy of coordinator Greg Roman that most close observers believe is at the root of the offense’s steadily evolving explosiveness.

“The players rave about Roman’s calls,” the source said. “If you’re a defensive coordinator, you have to be concerned about the volume in the Niners’ offense. You’re going to see plays that you’ve never seen before or practiced against. That’s a huge advantage, especially with a quarterback like Smith who is so smart and able to take advantage of situations.”

One innovative wrinkle that is causing major headaches for D-coordinators is the “WildKaep” package featuring second-year backup QB Colin Kaepernick, an emerging force both with his legs and his arm. Against the Bills, Kapernick made amends for a lost fumble with a four-carry, 39-yard outing, including a 16-yard TD jaunt in the fourth quarter.

“They’re starting to use him (Kaepernick) more in every game. He’s becoming a staple,” the source said. “It seems like only a matter of time before they decide to use him in a crucial late-game situation. He's that hard to stop. More passes from him is the next step in his evolution (he had a seven-yard completion in Week Five). He is so much more effective than Tim Tebow.”

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