Lions pose challenge for Roman's super-sized offense

September 14, 2012, 2:33 pm
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SANTA CLARA -- Detroit's starting defensive linemen are the same explosive four players the 49ers faced last season in their upset win at Ford Field.And San Francisco is preparing for an enhanced version of that defensive front Sunday evening at Candlestick Park."This year they are a lot more dialed in, more experienced," said right guard Alex Boone. "Working another year together, so they are more fluent with each other. (I've) seen a lot of great quickness and speed and power from all of them."That power and speed was front and center in Week 1. The Lions burst into the NFL season sacking St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford four times in their 27-23 victory. The defensive line was responsible for all of them. Starters Cliff Avril, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh each tallied a hit along with key backup Nick Fairley."They line their D-line up in different configurations. They pressure more. They blitz you more," explained 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. "I mean they are rushing, they are attacking. They are trying to destroy blocks, destroy blocking schemes on the way to the quarterback. Just because you're in pass rush mode, doesn't mean you're not playing the run. So, it's not just hey these guys are up the field, they're just playing the pass, not so fast."Those kinds of challenges are what drives Roman to create the unusual, yet highly effective, offensive formations he is becoming known for. Like a master chef who has the know-how to blend contrasting ingredients into flavorful fare, Roman takes a player's unique trait and mixes ideas until he comes up with a way to get that skill set in a game.There is no secret to the inspiration behind the new formation he rolled out against Green Bay. Roman gave new meaning to the term "jumbo package" when he put Leonard Davis (6-foot-6, 355 pounds) and Daniel Kilgore (6-3, 308) in to bulk up the blocking. Roman had the offensive linemen in positions they had never played before: Davis as a tight end, Kilgore as a wingback."You gotta press in and get in the book, the playbook, and learn a little more," Davis said. "It's a little more detail you have to pay attention to. It's kind of fun and kind of challenging at times being on the edge and controlling what's going on at the end of the line of scrimmage."Said Kilgore, "It's a first for me and Leonard. It's fun. I enjoy it. It's just getting in there and practicing it and getting used to the angles because it's much different from where I am at center."The super-sized package worked perfectly against the Packers as Frank Gore ran for a 23 yard touchdown with Davis, Kilgore and fullback Bruce Miller clearing the path. "Watching Leonard run out there is kinda funny," Boone said as he gave the 'G' version of the Packer's players reactions as they saw the massive three-time Pro Bowler come on the field. "'You gotta be kidding me. Come on seriously?' He comes out there and he's just so big."Roman does not want it known just how many new offensive schemes he's created incorporating Davis' rare size and strength."A lot," he said.But Roman is sure to unveil more of them against the Lions. Not forgotten is Kyle Vanden Bosch's hit on Alex Smith on the 49ers first offensive play of the game last year. The sack led to a fumble and a quick field goal off the turnover for the Lions.But Roman's big men formations are designed more for the benefit of what they bring to the 49ers offense than they are for the detriment of the opponent."More importantly, just attitude," Boone said. "Physicality, and that's one of the things that whole formation brings is just the fact that we are going to try and run an attitude play. We're not really deviating from anything.""We always have that mentality," Kilgore said. "That's the way our offense is ran. Coach Greg Roman and Coach Harbaugh and all the other coaches do a great job of putting us in a great position to win. We go out there and execute it during the week and on Sundays we're ready to go so yeah, our mentality is, try and stop us."AP Images