Ndamukong Suh has a simple credo, one the 49ers surely know heading into Sunday's visit to the unbeaten Detroit Lions.
"You either need to guard me, or I'm going to continue to hit your quarterback," Suh said Thursday in a media conference call.
Suh has hit, sacked and violently tossed a lot of quarterbacks since entering the NFL as last year's No. 2 draft pick. He had 10 sacks as a Pro Bowl-bound rookie, and he has two sacks in this season's 5-0 start.
He is the headliner for Sunday's pivotal matchup: a revitalized 49ers offensive line against the Lions' aggressive, nine-man defensive rotation.
"Obviously Suh gets a lot of attention in the national media," 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said. "But Corey Williams, the other defensive tackle, is a very good player. (Kyle) Vanden Bosch is an all-day guy, and we have to do a great job on him. Cliff Avril is playing at a real high level, real explosive. They've got a lot of depth, too.
"We're going to have to be really on top of our game."
They were exactly that Sunday in a 48-3 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yielding no sacks and blocking well enough for 213 yards rushing plus 205 passing. As a result, the 49ers' offensive line was named the John Madden Protectors of the Week, in conjunction with Prilosec OTC.
Left guard Mike Iupati hurt his right knee in that game and missed practice Wednesday, but he returned to action Thursday. He not only expects to play Sunday but also hopes to face Suh, stating: "He's a good player. Everybody is a good player. You've got to step your game up."
Right guard Adam Snyder, who replaced Chilo Rachal in the starting lineup two games ago, probably will draw Suh the most often Sunday. "We have a job to do, and that's protect the quarterback and open holes for Frank (Gore)," Snyder said.
Suh performs his job to the point where he was named the NFL's third-meanest player this week in an SI.com poll of players, who ranked him behind only James Harrison (Steelers) and Ray Lewis (Ravens).
Suh said: "It's not necessarily me putting fear like, 'I want you to be scared of me.' It's the fear of: 'If you don't take care of business and come up with a great plan, I'm going to hit (the quarterback), or the other eight or nine guys will hit him as well.' "
Lions coach Jim Schwartz added, "The defensive line -- no disrespect to (wide receiver) Calvin Johnson or (quarterback) Matthew Stafford or anyone else -- is the heart and soul of our team."
That defensive front includes Vanden Bosch, an 11th-year veteran who has a team-high three sacks. The Lions deployed nine defensive linemen Monday night in a 24-13 win over Chicago, with first-round draft pick Nick Fairley making his debut after being sidelined by a foot injury.
A record crowd of 67,861 showed up for that first "Monday Night Football" home game in a decade. Ford Field, which is sold out again for the 49ers' visit, made hearing tough for the Bears, who committed nine false-start penalties, six before halftime.
As if Suh & Co. weren't enough of a challenge, the 49ers offensive line must also contest with that crowd noise. About nine oversize speakers arrived for this week's practice to help the 49ers on their silent snap counts.
The 49ers committed four false-start penalties in their first road game of the season, at Cincinnati on Sept. 25. Only one such penalty occurred in the following week's comeback win at Philadelphia: Staley committed his team-high third false start.
"We're really anticipating it to be a Seattle atmosphere," Staley said of Detroit. "We play at Seattle every single year, so our guys are no strangers to really loud crowd noise."
Suh does not anticipate a letdown Sunday, not from the crowd nor the Lions defense, which he said will focus first on stopping the running back tandem of Gore and Kendall Hunter.
Suh wouldn't mind meeting quarterback Alex Smith, either. Just don't expect a friendship to form on the field. Suh shared a story how he went to dinner with a Bears player Sunday night before switching into a different mode for the game.
"The next day, I'm not going to speak to him, I'm not going to high-five him, I'm not going to say anything to him, because it's all about business," Suh said. "When I step in between the lines, we aren't friends."
League officials have noticed. Suh reportedly got fined $20,000 for a hit on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the exhibition opener, $15,000 for one on the Bears' Jay Cutler last season and $7,500 for one on the Carolina Panthers' Jake Delhomme in the 2010 preseason.
Smith's concerns go beyond Suh.
"They just play extremely fast, the whole defense," Smith said. "They know what they're doing."
Suh added, "We approach it in (that) we'll meet each other at the quarterback."
The 49ers' other option: Block Suh. Or he'll continue to hit Smith, as promised.
For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers.