IRVING, Texas (AP)—Terrell Owens stood on a star logo at Texas Stadium again. This time, it led to a standing ovation.
Owens capped his turnaround from local scourge to fan favorite by catching three second-half touchdowns, taking the Dallas Cowboys from a tight game against the Houston Texans to an easy 34-6 victory Sunday.
“I think this is a good start for me,” said Owens, who broke a three-game scoring drought, his longest since 2000, with his first three-TD game since the night of his infamous skit with one of the “Desperate Housewives” in 2004.
“This is something to build on,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
All the Cowboys (3-2) had to enjoy this one, from the offense putting up 31 points after halftime, scoring on five of six possessions, to the defense not allowing a touchdown for the second straight home game.
It was an emphatic recovery from a tough loss to Philadelphia last week and a great way of avenging an embarrassing loss to the Texans (1-4) four years ago. And with the Eagles losing to New Orleans, the Cowboys moved within a half-game of first place in the NFC East; they’re tied with the New York Giants, their foe next Monday night.
Yet the story was T.O.—and, for the first time since he joined Dallas, it was all good news.
Until Sunday, his Cowboys tenure was marked by problems: The hamstring injury that landed him on a stationary bike and off the field for most of the preseason, a fine for being late to work, a broken hand, an accidental overdose, screams of “Why am I here?” during and after the loss against Philadelphia and a shouting match this week with passing game coordinator Todd Haley.
Tension seemed to be mounting again as Owens went nearly the entire first half without a catch and with passes rarely coming his way. Then Haley and Drew Bledsoe made up for it.
Owens caught a 3-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter despite pass interference called on his defender, putting Dallas ahead for the first time. He stretched the lead by making a nice adjustment on a 21-yard pass caught in the end zone between two Texans, then capped his big day with a 2-yard TD and the kind of celebration everyone’s expected since Owens arrived in Dallas.
Making sure he was standing on one of the helmets in the end zone, Owens arched his back and spread his arms in the same look-at-me pose that got him in trouble when he was playing for San Francisco in 2000. After giving the ball to someone in the stands, he ran back across the field waving his arms and fans responded with more cheers and a standing ovation.
“It was his day,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I’m pleased we got him.”
Owens finished with five catches for only 45 yards, the same total he had last week against Philadelphia. There was a world of difference in how it felt, though, with Owens calling it a “steppingstone” in his relationship with Bledsoe.
“I told him, `Dude, just trust me. I know how to play the game. When the ball is in the air, I know how to attack, I know how to go get it,”’ Owens said.
Bledsoe went 17-of-28 for 168 yards with no turnovers. He threw the first two TDs to Owens.
“He made some really nice plays on the ball. That was great to see,” Bledsoe said. “He really got us going.”
Owens’ third TD pass came from Tony Romo, the fourth-year backup who’d never thrown a pass until Sunday. He replaced Bledsoe midway through the final drive and completed both his attempts, a 33-yarder to Sam Hurd, then the lob to a wide-open Owens.
The Owens-Haley spat that became public Friday wasn’t an issue. They chatted during the game and even shared a hug after his first score.
“He’s my coach and I respect him,” Owens said. “That doesn’t mean we have to go to lunch together, play cards together.”
The Texans were coming off their first win and a bye and were trying to hang onto the Governor’s Cup they’d earned with a 19-10 victory over Dallas in 2002.
David Carr lived up to his league-best passer rating by marching Houston to the Dallas 1 on the game-opening drive, but the Texans only got a field goal. They never came close to the end zone again, scoring only a 48-yard field goal at the end of the second quarter that was set up by a long punt return.
Houston led 6-3 at halftime, then ruined their comeback chances when Carr threw interceptions on consecutive drives and Edell Shepherd fumbled on a kickoff return. Dallas turned all three takeaways into points.
“I didn’t make the plays, it’s my fault,” said Carr, who went 15-of-27 for 128 yards with the two interceptions, matching his total coming in. “Against a team like this, you have to be perfect.”
Dallas’ Julius Jones ran 22 times for 106 yards, his third straight 100-yard game, and Marion Barber scored for the fourth straight game. … Owens had multiple TD catches for the 25th time in his career, fourth-best in league history. … The Texans likely lost defensive tackle Seth Payne for the season (knee). Safety Glenn Earl left with a strained neck, tackle Zach Wiegert sprained his left knee and his replacement Eric Winston dislocated a finger.