Ravens wary of running game within pass-heavy Cowboys offense

OWINGS MILLS - Despite numbers that would suggest otherwise, the Baltimore Ravens have emphasized they're expecting a balanced offensive approach from the Dallas Cowboys.

The Ravens (4-1) host the Cowboys (2-2) Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Dallas has thrown the ball nearly 70 percent of the time this season, but Baltimore is also wary of second-year running back Demarco Murray.

"We're expecting both [pass and run]," Ravens outside linebacker Albert McClellan said. "Their running back's a pretty solid player, so we're expecting a pretty balanced [approach]."

But the Cowboys' approach has been anything but balanced through the early part of the season.

With Murray and the running game struggling, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has been asked to make more plays with his arm.

That's come with mixed results.

Romo is throwing for an average of nearly 290 yards per game, but he's tossed eight interceptions, five of which came during the Cowboys' 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 4.

Nevertheless, Romo has thrown for more than 4,000 yards during each of the last three seasons that he's played in all 16 games. He finished last year with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

Baltimore described the gun-slinging Romo as a creative player capable of extending plays with his legs, comparing him to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

"Tony Romo is a guy that can get hot at any time," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's done it so many times. I've been on the field with him and seen him make some uncanny plays."

And he figures to provide a serious challenge to a struggling Baltimore pass defense, especially given the abundance of weapons he has to throw to.

Dallas has five players with 16 catches or more.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten are tied for the team-lead in catches (21) while wide receiver Miles Austin leads the Cowboys in both receiving yards (300) and touchdown catches (3).

Austin (five) and Bryant (three) have combined for eight catches of 20 yards or more.

Fellow wide receiver Kevin Ogletree is a capable playmaker as well.

Ogletree had eight catches for 114 yards and two scores in Dallas's season-opening 24-17 win against the New York Giants.

Murray has caught 16 passes out of the backfield.

"They probably have one of the most talented groups in the National Football League," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard said. "You look at 19 [Austin], 88 [Bryant] and then Ogletree, Witten working the middle and then they can check down to their backs. I think they have one of the most talented groups in the league, and they've got a quarterback that can get the ball to them."

Baltimore's pass defense was ranked 29th in the NFL before facing the run-heavy Kansas City Chiefs this past weekend.

But Pollard is expecting the Cowboys to test the Ravens on the ground as well.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles rushed for 140 yards against Baltimore, including 125 yards during the first half.

As a team, Kansas City finished with 214 yards on 50 carries.

The Cowboys' rush offense is ranked fourth-worst in the NFL, but Pollard referred to the physical and speedy 6-foot, 215-pound Murray as "a heck of a back."

Murray has been limited to 44 yards or less during each of Dallas's last three games, but had 131 yards on 20 carries against the Giants in Week 1.

He ran for 897 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last season while averaging more than five yards per carry.

"You've got to look at last game," Pollard said. "We gave up 140 [yards] to one player, and they ran for 214 [yards as a team], so you have to think they're going to try to come in here and run the ball. We've just to be sound in every aspect and be ready to play."