HOUSTON – Jerry Jones can exhale, at least for now. So can Wade Phillips.
Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes to Roy Williams, Marion Barber ran for another score, and the Dallas Cowboys got their first win by beating the Houston Texans 27-13 on Sunday.
The Cowboys' defense got its first three takeaways of the season and held Houston's top-ranked offense to 340 yards. DeMarcus Ware sacked Matt Schaub three times, and the Dallas secondary limited All-Pro receiver Andre Johnson to four catches for 64 yards.
Romo went 23 for 30 for 284 yards, Williams caught five passes for 117 yards and the Cowboys (1-2) finally turned in a dominant performance after starting 0-2 for the first time since 2001.
Arian Foster, the NFL's leading rusher, ran for 106 yards on 17 carries for the Texans (2-1), who were eager to knock off the Cowboys for reasons beyond earning the franchise's first 3-0 start.
This city's NFL teams have always ranked second in the state to the Cowboys in terms of fans and media attention, even during the best years of the Oilers.
The announced crowd was 71,456, a record for a Texans game at Reliant Stadium. But Dallas supporters were well-represented and taunted the hometown fans with "Let's Go, Cowboys!" chant in the waning minutes.
Dallas now heads into an early bye week with a victory to build on rather than concerns about what its unpredictable owner Jones might change after another embarrassing loss. Coach Phillips even got a chance to smile on the sideline late in the game.
Ware set the tone on Houston's first series, surging past left tackle Rashad Butler and sacked Schaub. Butler, a five-year veteran, was making his first career start in place of Duane Brown, who began serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's banned substance policy. Brown had started the last 34 games.
On the Texans' second series, Foster converted a third down with a 20-yard run and Johnson gained 24 more yards to the Dallas 6. The Cowboys' defense stopped Houston there, and Neil Rackers kicked a 24-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Romo threw a 32-yard pass to Felix Jones on the Cowboys' next snap, but it was negated by an illegal block, exactly the kind of mistake that plagued Dallas in its first two games.
But Williams and Dez Bryant caught third-down passes from Romo to get Dallas moving. Miles Austin beat Brice McCain on a 17-yard reception to the Texans 1, and Barber scored on the next play, the Cowboys' first touchdown rushing this season.
Ware sacked Schaub again with less than two minutes left in the half. Buehler put Dallas up 10-3 with a 49-yard field goal; he missed shorter attempts in each of the first two games.
Johnson, who sprained his right ankle in last week's win over Washington, aggravated the injury early in the third quarter. He caught a short pass from Schaub, then fell awkwardly after he was tackled by Orlando Scandrick.
Trainers helped Johnson hobble off the field, but he returned for Houston's next series. Schaub threw a deep pass to him that Mike Jenkins intercepted at the 10-yard line for the Cowboys' first takeaway of the season.
Romo then went to work on the Texans' suspect secondary, which allowed more than 400 yards passing in each of the first two games. Bryant caught a 30-yard pass down the sideline, and one play later, Williams pulled down a 15-yard touchdown catch over McCain for a 17-3 lead.
Foster went over 100 yards rushing with a 26-yard run late in the third quarter. The undrafted free agent has topped 100 yards rushing in three of his four career starts.
Houston looked ready to get much closer when it reached the Dallas 1. But the Cowboys twice stopped Foster at the line, and Keith Brooking sacked Schaub on third down, forcing Houston to settle for another short field goal.
Soon after, Romo then threw a quick slant to Williams, who darted past rookie cornerback Kareem Jackson and sprinted for a 63-yard touchdown.
Foster fumbled on the Texans' next possession, and Buehler tacked on a 40-yard field goal.