Nevada coach Chris Ault and 49ers OC Greg Roman met before the  2010 season to discuss the pistol offense. (US Presswire)

Before the 2010 season, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman drove to Reno, Nev., from the Bay Area to visit with Nevada coach Chris Ault.

At the time, Roman was the run game coordinator at Stanford and had liked what he'd seen from the pistol offense the Wolfpack employed with a skinny, athletic quarterback named Colin Kaepernick.

"Made the trek up to Nevada and visited with (Ault) and his staff and that was very valuable time spent," Roman said. "He was very accommodating and it was very interesting as a coach to go learn something totally new."

The Cardinal incorporated it that season, were 12-1 record and won the Orange Bowl. Three years later, the visit is still paying dividends. It was a part of the offense when Alex Smith was the starter, and when coach Jim Harbaugh switched to Kaepernick, who the 49ers drafted almost two years after Roman metwith  Ault, it started showing up more on game days.

Internally, the pistol formation, with three players in the backfield along with Kaepernick -- one to each side, one behind him -- is known as the "Q formation." Roman said that's because it needed to have a one-syllable name.

Against Miami, San Francisco ran 17 plays out of the formation.

“Well, we thought in this particular game, that it was a way for us to get a hat on a hat," Harbaugh said. "A way to balance off Miami’s defense and what they had shown to do. Because it is a balanced formation, it allows you to go in any direction and throw the ball. It was a good, basic, base formation for us in this game.”

It also allows the 49ers to run multiple types of plays from the same pre-snap look and keeps Kaepernick in his comfort zone. His 50-yard touchdown run came on a read-option keeper out of the formation.

Aldon Smith vs Nate Solder, Part II: In college, 49ers LB Aldon Smith had his way against Patriots LT Nate Solder when Missouri played Colorado. The box score shows Smith had three sacks, but Smith remembers it different: "Four," he said.

Asked if going against Solder was a matchup that favored Smith, he agreed.

"I was able to beat him, yeah," said Smith, who made it clear he was confident going into Sunday's game against the Patriots. "We can stop them."

Battle of O-line coaches: San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio believes Sunday's game against New England will not only be a battle of two good teams, but one that pits the league's top two offensive line coaches against each other 

"I think Dante Scarnecchia, their offensive line coach, and our line coach, Mike Solari, are the two best line coaches in the league," Fangio said. "And it’s reflected in the way their line plays.”

The Patriots have allowed QB Tom Brady to get sacked just 20 times this season.

Best defense is a good offense?: San Francisco's ability to put together long, time-consuming drives will be essential at New England. With the Patriots' up-tempo, no-huddle offense, opponents have a tend to tire toward the end of games.

“Well, that always is a great help," Fangio said. "If Brady’s on the sideline with the rest of the offense, that’s a good way to defend them."

Injury report: LB Tavares Gooden (ribs), WR Mario Manningham (shoulder), FB Bruce Miller (shoulder) and LB Smith (shoulder) wore black non-contact jerseys in practice Thursday.

Before practice, Manningham was wearing patches on his right shoulder for electric shock treatment. He said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to play Sunday.

Follow 49ers reporter Kyle Bonagura on Twitter @CBS49ers and @KyleBonagura.