Tony Romo says Cowboys need to run

IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo doesn't want to throw the ball 50 times per game. He recognizes the value of a good running game.

But it's tough to be balanced when the running game is wretched. That's a fair term to use for a Cowboys rushing attack that ranks 28th in the NFL with 69.5 yards per game.

"It's difficult because we need to get more out of what we're trying to do," Romo said. "I'm not sure exactly the statistics but ... when you run the ball and run successfully, it makes everything a lot easier. Everything. Whether it's your red zone offense or whether it's staying on the field or minimizing mistakes or minimizing what the defense can do defensively.

"But if you're not getting the production out of it, you're also banging your head against the wall to just keep doing it. Once again, it's not black and white, it's something we just have to keep grinding at and figure out a way to get better, whether it's coming up with stuff, doing things better or figuring out a way. We have to do it."

The Cowboys' three tailbacks -- Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice -- have combined for 132 yards on 40 carries in two games.

The Cowboys (0-2) rank fourth in the NFL in total offense (395.0 yards per game), but they have struggled to sustain drives while producing only two offensive touchdowns in two weeks.

The Cowboys actually ran the ball well in the season opener against the Redskins, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. They just didn't run it often enough, with only 22 carries.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett had good reason to abandon the run in last week's loss to the Bears. The Cowboys averaged only 1.8 yards per carry.

"We want to be a balanced offense," Garrett said. "We've shown that in the past and we're going to work hard to show that again. It's important to us to be able to run the ball and throw the ball and attack teams differently and be successful doing it."

The Cowboys ran the ball on first down eight times against the Bears. Those plays accounted for a grand total of zero yards. They lost yardage four times, including a holding penalty.

In other words, an incomplete pass would have been an improvement over the Cowboys' running game way too often last week.

"It's difficult when we're not able to get production that you'd like to have on the ground," said Romo, who has completed 65 of 98 passes for 656 yards. "Third-and-8 is a lot more difficult than third-and-4. You put a lot more pressure in a lot of areas for people to be sound and perfect if you're not able to get that. We need to be better than that. It's hard. Sometimes the defense dictates it. Sometimes we need to be better."

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.