The Buffalo Bills' offense has been perfect in the red zone through two games. That trend may be put to the test this week against the Cleveland defense run by former Bills head coach Dick Jauron.
Jauron's defenses historically have been good at holding teams to field goals when they get inside the 20-yard line, even when surrendering a lot of yards.
Jauron served as the Bills' head coach from 2006 through the middle of the 2009 season. In 2007, his Bills were 31st in yards allowed but fourth best in the red zone. In 2008, Jauron's Bills were 14th in yards allowed but fourth again in the red zone.
The trend has continued in Cleveland. Last season the Browns were 30th in rushing yards allowed. But they were third in the red zone and fifth in points allowed.
"You can give up yards but if you don't let 'em score, that's the most important thing," said Bills defensive tackle Spencer Johnson. "If you keep them out of the end zone, no matter how you do it, in my book that's good defense."
"This league's about scoring and preventing scores," said Browns coach Pat Shurmur. "So your challenge always is to do that. We've seen teams walk up and down the field at times. Then you start talking about how'd they do in the red zone? Did they eliminate the score? Did they score on defense? We found a way to be good in some areas."
The Bills' offense has scored five TDs in five trips inside the opposition 20 this season. Cleveland's defense has eight sacks in two games.
"They're getting after the quarterback," Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "They've gotten a lot of sacks, and they've created a lot of pressure. They're feisty up front. . They're very good one-on-one pass rushers. That's going to be a big point of emphasis going into this week."
"As you are well aware, Dick's a very steady man," Shurmur said. "I guess you wouldn't consider him flamboyant. .
"Kind of a consistent aggressive approach -- that's kind of what we're looking for from our defense."
Jauron is in his second season as Browns defensive chief. There are 17 Bills left from his Buffalo tenure. Jauron didn't ruffle many feathers in Buffalo. All of his former players speak kindly of him.
"He's a great guy," Spencer Johnson said. "Coach Jauron brought me in. He knows his stuff. He's smart. He understands football. He's been in it for a long time."
"The guys that were here with Coach Jauron, I know we've got a ton of respect for him as a coach and as a man," Fitzpatrick said. "It'll be good to see him and catch up with him."
Fitzpatrick did offer one good-natured jab at his ex-coach. Asked if he has had any contact with Jauron since 2009, Fitzpatrick said: "No, I have not. The Harvard-Yale stuff, Harvard usually beats them, especially now. So he doesn't really talk to me about that stuff."
For the record, Fitzpatrick's Harvard has beaten Jauron's Yale five straight years and 10 of the last 11 seasons.
Bills safety Jairus Byrd returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday after missing Wednesday with a foot injury.
"He did OK," coach Chan Gailey said. "He was very limited out there. He did individual and took a few team plays. But I think he'll be fine Sunday. I'm shocked, as a matter of fact. It's good."
Byrd said he injured the foot at some point before last week's game. However, he played all 75 snaps against the Chiefs and made an interception on the game's final play.
"It's something that's there, but hopefully as things progress I'll be able to go Sunday," Byrd said.
Meanwhile, receiver Ruvell Martin (ankle) was ruled out. Linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) sat out Thursday, but Gailey said he will practice today and should be fine for the game.
Cleveland's kick return ace, Josh Cribbs, was limited in practice again Thursday due to a sore knee. Starting defensive tackle Billy Winn (concussion) practiced fully. Among the reserves, tight end Alex Smith (head) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs, oblique) did not practice, while defensive end Juqua Parker (foot) and defensive back Raymond Ventrone (hand) were limited.
Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus returned from attending the funeral of his younger brother in Alabama on Thursday and practiced fully. Dareus reunites Sunday with former Alabama teammate Trent Richardson, the Browns' rookie running back.
"The thing that makes him so good is what he plays for," Dareus said. "Me and him play for the same thing, we play for our families. He works out for his family. He does everything for his family. That's his motivation."
Dareus said he respects the way Richardson carries himself among his teammates. "He's not in the training room. He's not a complainer," Dareus said. "He's not gonna say much. He goes out there and works."
Alabama coach Nick Saban has said Richardson is the most low-maintenance player he ever has coached.