SANTA CLARA Alex Boone calls them attitude plays.
On five snaps last week in Green Bay, the 49ers lined up in their "jumbo" package, one that features a 355-pound tight end in Leonard Davis and a 308-pound wing back in Daniel Kilgore.
Sometimes they got a nice gain. Sometimes they didn't. But the message behind that massive blocking formation always was the same.
"It's like going back to high school," Boone, the 49ers right guard, said. "It's like, 'Now we'll see who's going to beat who.' "
Attitude was the key word when the 49ers and Lions met last year in Detroit.
The famously feisty post-game handshake between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit coach Jim Schwartz overshadowed a hard-fought and pugnacious battle in the trenches, especially between the right side of the 49ers offensive line and the left side of Detroit's defensive line.
Offensive tackle Anthony Davis and defensive end Cliff Avril jawed at each other throughout the game, then continued feuding on Twitter hours after it had ended.
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, meanwhile, was overwhelmingly voted the league's dirtiest player last season in a player poll conducted by the Sporting News, and 49ers players privately corroborated that assessment after the Lions game last season.
Boone, who has plenty of saltiness in his own game, will be matched against Suh today.
He said he's leaned heavily on the advice from Leonard Davis last week. Not only is Davis, like Boone, a tall, long-armed lineman who transitioned from tackle to guard, he's been in the league 11 years and has a mental dossier on many of Boone's upcoming opponents.
And Davis is very familiar with Suh, having faced him daily in practice last year when Davis was with the Lions.
"He's an exceptional athlete, and you've got to bring your A game when you're playing against a guy like that," Davis said.
Last year, the 49ers didn't shy away from Suh. Instead, they attacked him from all angles, including an effective "wham" blocking play in which tight end Delanie Walker slammed into Suh after a running start.
The 49ers rushed for 203 yards in the game, 141 of them by Frank Gore, who also scored a touchdown.
This week San Francisco is likely to hit Suh and the Lions with its jumbo package in an effort to demoralize Detroit early.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said he began experimenting with formations that used extra offensive linemen when he was moonlighting as a high school assistant in New Jersey in 2008. It worked so well that he used it the following seasons when he joined Harbaugh at Stanford.
In Roman's first season with the 49ers last year, Boone played the role of the beefy extra tight end. This year, the position has been super-sized once again.
"Well Leonard's a big, physical he's just big and physical," Roman said of Davis. "He's a big, massive, powerful man. And when you get him in there, he gives you an opportunity to maybe get a size matchup on somebody."
Davis and Kilgore were on the field last week for one of the big momentum shifts in the game.
Following an interception by linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the 49ers took over at the Green Bay 23-yard line and Roman sent out the jumbos. On the next play, a handoff to Gore, Davis and Kilgore sealed the left side of the Packers defensive line, fullback Bruce Miller slowed down safety Charles Woodson and Gore scampered outside and then down the sideline for a touchdown.
Boone said he sees "a lot of wide eyes" from the defense when the 49ers break the huddle in their jumbo package.
"I think Leonard does that by himself," he said. "More importantly, it's attitude and physicality, and that's one of those things that that whole formation brings."