Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell not worried about offense, more concerned with turnovers

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ALLEN PARK, Michigan — Spending three years coaching Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts gave Jim Caldwell plenty of experience leading a team built around a high-powered offense.

That experience is why Caldwell said he's not worried about the fact that his current team, the Detroit Lions, been held to 17 total offensive points over the past two weeks.

In fact, Caldwell says he sees parallels between low-scoring games the Colts won during his first season with the team in 2009, and the Lions' performances during a Week 2 loss to Carolina and a Week 3 win over Green Bay.

"I remember in 2009, (Indianapolis) played San Francisco and the score was (18-14), and (Colts RB) Joseph Addai threw the touchdown pass. That was one of the all-time great (offensive) units in terms of individuals," Caldwell said. "Do you think that we panicked and lost faith in what we were doing? No. That's the exact same way I feel now."

Caldwell's faith in his team comes from the fact that despite the lack of scoring, Detroit's offense has been successful moving the ball.

The Lions rank 10th in the NFL in total offense, averaging 364.3 yards per game, and second in the league in third down rate, keeping the offense on the field 56 percent of the time.

What the Lions haven't done well over the past two weeks is take care of the football. Quarterback Matthew Stafford says the team's six total turnovers against the Panthers and Packers cost the offense.

"We've had some missed opportunities (against Green Bay and Carolina)" Stafford said. "It's just little plays here and there. Any time you turn the ball over three times (a game) you're not going to score a whole lot of points. We kind of hurt ourselves in that fashion."

Stafford believes that the Lions' offense — ball security included — will improve as the team adjusts to Caldwell's system.

He said that while the team was able to install the new offense during offseason workouts and training camp, the system didn't truly begin to take hold until the regular season began.

"It's tough to practice (new offenses) during training camp," Stafford said. "You don't know who's going to be on the final roster, and you don't know where exactly they're going to put guys (on the field). Week in and week out we're getting more comfortable, and guys are understanding their roles."

He says he's also continuing to build a relationship with new receiver Golden Tate that will help him distribute the ball better.

"It's about trust," Stafford said. "Obviously I've played with Calvin (Johnson) a lot longer than I've played with Golden, but Golden and I have spent a bunch of time working together, and it's paying off."

The schedule doesn't get any easier for Stafford and the Lions. Their next test is a tough road game in New York against a Jets team that ranks second in the NFL — behind the Lions — in total defense.

Stafford says that while the Jets defense presents a difficult challenge, the fact that New York is allowing opponents an average of 24 points per game gives Detroit the chance to get a crucial early season win.

"They're aggressive," Stafford said. "They're going to give you chances to make plays. We've got to make sure we make them."

NOTES: Calvin Johnson missed practice Wednesday for the first time during the regular season after injuring his right ankle late in Sunday's win over the Packers. Johnson didn't comment on whether the injury would keep him from playing against the Jets. Safety Don Carey, linebacker Travis Lewis and cornerback Cassius Vaughn (ankle) also missed Wednesday's workout. ... The Lions have signed LB Josh Bynes to the active roster from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad and DB Josh Victorian to the practice squad.


AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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