ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Expectations certainly are much greater for this Detroit Lions’ offense than what they’ve produced so far, but there has been a silver lining.
The Lions have committed no turnovers in three of their first six games, including their last two road games, both victories.
They went only three games all last season without a turnover.
"The thing that I’m most encouraged about is our first goal is not to beat ourselves," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. "When the (Lions’) defense is playing that well, I think you end up becoming a little more conservative as a play-caller and as players. Protect the ball. We’re not having a lot of pre-snap penalties.
"We’ve had a couple games where we’ve had too many turnovers (three against both Carolina and Green Bay), but for the most part I think we’re starting to eliminate or minimize those things."
It’s a change from recent years when the Lions developed a reputation for always doing the wrong thing and the worst time.
"We’re not beating ourselves," Lombardi said, before adding, "Now it’s time to pick it up and start beating people."
NO HUGGING ALLOWED
The Lions’ players have laid down some ground rules for Lombardi, who faces his former team Sunday, New Orleans, at Ford Field.
Lombardi spent the last seven years as an assistant coach for the Saints, including the quarterback coach for Drew Brees, before getting his first shot as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with Detroit.
"The (Lions’) quarterbacks told me that I’d get fined for every hug (with a New Orleans player/coach)," Lombardi said. "I’m going to try to keep those to a minimum and just shake hands."
Lombardi met with Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin to discuss the Saints’ offense, particularly their personnel groupings, but he downplayed the potential impact of his input.
Lombardi said Austin was already familiar with much of what he said simply from watching tape of the Saints and studying the team’s advanced scouting report.
"This isn’t just cloud cover, there’s really not all that big of an advantage I can give our defense," Lombardi said. "I don’t think they need much, they’re playing so well."
Lombardi said the greatest advantage might be that the Lions’ offense is similar to the Saints’ offense, so the Detroit defense has become familiar with it over the last few months.
However, the same could be true for New Orleans’ defense familiarity with the Detroit offense for the same reason.
DON’T THINK, JUST HIT
Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, the No. 5 pick overall in last year’s draft, is relying much more on instincts in his second season in the league.
"I wasn’t thinking," Ansah said of his 2 1/2-sack performance last Sunday at Minnesota that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. "I was just trying to do whatever I can to get to the quarterback.
"Last year, I was a little bit hesitant. This year, I just let it loose."
Lions coach Jim Caldwell had to prepare to try to stop Ansah a year ago as the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator.
Caldwell has seen a big difference in Ansah since that time, even though Ansah missed much of the offseason following shoulder surgery.
"He probably was a bit more of a bull-rusher when we saw him (last year), more of a guy that would try to overpower you," Caldwell said. "I think his repertoire has changed just a little bit. He’s added a few (moves) to it.
"He can beat you a number of different ways. He was probably still thinking a little bit about what was going on around him and how to best attack it. He doesn’t do much thinking right now. He can react and quickly."
Ansah returned to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday because of a toe injury.
NO CLARIFICATION FROM BROYLES
Receiver Ryan Broyles didn’t have much to say about the tweets he sent out after Sunday’s game expressing some frustration over his limited role.
Asked Thursday to clarify those comments, Broyles said, "It’s already clarified," before walking away.
Caldwell confirmed that he met with Broyles, but the coach also offered few other details.
"I call them instructive experiences," Caldwell said of the meeting. "There were no issues."
Receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), running back Theo Riddick (hamstring) and tight end Eric Ebron (hamstring) all missed Thursday’s practice.
The only healthy tight end practicing was Brandon Pettigrew.
Receiver/return specialist Jeremy Ross (ankle) returned to practice after missing the day before.