IRVING, Texas – In a matchup between a stagnant running game and a spotty rushing defense, something must give.
The Cowboys are ranked 29th in rushing offense, while the Ravens' defense sits at 20th in the league in rushing defense. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and Cowboys fullback Lawrence Vickers offered opposing opinions on whether this could be the week the Dallas running game gets going.
"They can look to do whatever they want to do, but it ain't going to be what they think it's going to be," Lewis said.
After Lewis made his comment, Vickers responded that some teams could be intimidated by a venerable Ravens defense, but the Cowboys don't care about Baltimore's reputation or what Lewis said.
"That's just the way he feels," Vickers said. "I don't remember him being a Houdini or anything like that. He's entitled to his own opinion. If that's how he feels, that's cool, too. Kudos to him."
Neither team can back up talk with recent history or statistics. Baltimore also holds the No. 22 passing defense in the league this season, while negative rushes have forced the Cowboys to resort to a pass-heavy offense the last few weeks, causing them to commit turnovers.
Vickers said he respects the Ravens defense, but playmakers exist on every defense the Cowboys have faced thus far. He said the athletes on the opposing side shouldn't affect how the Cowboys run the ball, and their lack of success on the ground is mostly a result of Dallas putting itself in positions where it's forced to pass.
Running back DeMarco Murray's rushing numbers have steadily decreased every week since running for 131 yards against the Giants. He finished with only 24 rushing yards against the Bears, which head coach Jason Garrett attributed to a variety of reasons, including his offensive line getting physically beaten.
"We've played against some good run-defending teams where there's been a lot of movement up front," Garrett said. "Frankly, we haven't blocked as well as we need to, we haven't run it as well as we need to. In order for us to be the offense we want to be, we want to be balanced."
Despite holding a 4-1 record, teams have managed to put up numbers running and passing against the vaunted Ravens' defense, which allowed Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles to rush for 140 yards in a 9-6 Baltimore win last week. Ravens running back Ray Rice ran for 102 yards, but Baltimore was outrushed, 214-133, in the game.
"I thought Kansas City did a good job," said tight end Jason Witten. "They rushed the ball 50 times. That's a mindset they took, and there's something to be said for that. I think that's the way you've got to approach the game, especially at their place. They're going to bounce back and try to hit you in the mouth, and we've got to be able to answer."
Witten said the Cowboys focused on fixing the rushing attack during the bye week, and he thinks they can be a quality running team, which they have to be to compete in this league.
"Ultimately, the teams that have success have some type of running game that they're able to go to at different times of the game," he said. "We need to do that.
"You can go through every game, but at the end of the day, we've all seen that the great running teams, they don't care who lines up over there. They find a way to get four or five yards. That obviously can really punish a defense, both physically and mentally."
The Cowboys haven't rushed for more than 50 yards in a game since playing New York, when they totaled 143 rushing yards. Opponents have outrushed Dallas by 161 yards this season.
Guard Nate Livings said the Cowboys can't focus solely on what they did well against the Giants and expect to repeat that performance.
"Every game, teams adjust to us," Livings said. "You've got to put it behind you and work ahead and look forward to doing something else different. Of course, you look at what you're good at, but you can't harp on it, because they study film, too."