Sep 29, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos fan holds up a touchdown sign after a blocked punt by Denver Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson (not pictured) against the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs for a short gain during the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
KUSA - Could DeMarco Murray be the Dallas Cowboys' best defense Sunday afternoon to stopping Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' offense?
The Dallas running back has 245 yards on 40 carries past two weeks (175 yards in Week 3 against St. Louis,) and he ranks third in the NFL with 356 yards. Denver's defense ranks No. 1 against the run (allowing 74.0 yards per game,) a lot of that is because they are stopping the run early in games, then teams are forced to throw the ball more as the Broncos' offense racks up points. It shows as the Broncos rank 30th in the NFL in passing defense (316.2 yards per game).
But is controlling the clock by running more against Denver's defense be a game plan Murray is interested in?
"I don't think so," Murray told reporters in Dallas this week. "We've got a good defense. ... We're going to continue to play our game and control what we can control and score as many points as we can like we do any other week."
The Cowboys' offense is ranked 10th in the league in scoring (26.0) but 19th in rushing yards (102.2) and total offense (341.0). Quarterback Tony Romo is averaging 254.3 yards passing per game with eight touchdowns and one interception. He has been sacked nine times.
"They have some weapons. Murray is a good runner, (wide receivers) Dez Bryant, Miles Austin - they've got some good talent," Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "They're undefeated at home, so we want to get in there and get after them and get a good win."
But Austin will miss his second straight game with a hamstring problem. Austin has a history of hamstring issues and was hurt again in Week 3 against St. Louis. He sat out last week's game in San Diego. Rookie Terrance Williams will make his second career start in Austin's place. Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant is out with a groin injury.
Dallas (2-2) has won twice at home, beating Eli Manning and the Giants in the season-opener then blasting the St. Louis Rams in Week 3. But the Cowboys are just 19-15 in the cavernous 80,000-seat stadium that opened in 2009.
Romo made waves this week when he said the Broncos' secondary does "a great job with their hands."
"They grab, they hold, they've almost put a lot of pressure on the refs - whether or not they're going to call the game close or not," Romo said during a conference call with Denver reporters. "If they get called once or twice, that's a good thing."
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) was listed pregame as inactive. Bailey hasn't played all season after injuring his left foot in the second week of the preseason. Denver cornerback Quentin Jammer is inactive again after playing his first game last week against Philadelphia.
Kickoff is set for 2:25 p.m. mountain time.The Broncos next play Sunday, Oct. 13, at home against Jacksonville (2 p.m.)
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