Arlington, Texas - The New Orleans Saints entered Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys with the hopes of evening their record at the first quarter mark of the 2014 NFL season. But the Cowboys - especially DeMarco Murray and his offensive linemen - had other ideas as they raced to a commanding first half lead and held on for a 38-17 win at AT&T Stadium.
Murray and the Dallas rushing attack dominated the first half as they entered intermission up 24-0. Murray finished with 149 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was equally effective, especially in the first half, as he finished 22 for 29 for 262 yards and three touchdown passes, two to Terrance Williams. Romo also had an improbable 21-yard scramble that kept a drive alive. Dez Bryant caught Romo's final TD pass, an 18-yarder in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.
The Cowboys improved to 3-1 with the win and are tied for first in the NFC East with Philadelphia.
The Saints' offense struggled to get in gear and it squandered three of its best scoring chances. A missed 41-yard field-goal attempt by Shayne Graham, a Drew Brees interception and a Jimmy Graham fumble all ended three good Saints possessions.
After getting shut out in the first half, New Orleans (1-3) finally scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Brees hit backup tight end Josh Hill with a 12-yard scoring pass. The score was set up by the team's best play of the game, a 62-yard run by Khiry Robinson. The Saints followed up with another score as Brees and Graham connected on a 13-yard TD.
Graham finished with eight receptions for 86 yards and Marques Colston added five more 50 yards. Receiver Kenny Stills had two catches for 62 yards, with the bulk coming on a 46-yard bomb.
Robinson led the rushing attack with 86 yards on eight carries. Brees ended the game 32 of 44 for 341 yards with two TDs and one interception.
Linebacker Curtis Lofton, making his 100th consecutive start, led the team with 11 tackles. Safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd had seven tackles each with Vaccaro had the team's lone sack.
The Saints lost starting left tackle Terron Armstead in the first quarter with a possible concussion.
While the Saints made a game of it in the second half the Cowboys dominated every major first-half stat.
Yardage: Dallas 290, New Orleans 114.
Time of possession: Dallas 17:47, New Orleans 12:13
Turnovers: New Orleans 1, Dallas 0
Tony Romo: 17 of 22 for 202 yards and two TDs; Drew Brees, 10 of 13 for 84 yards and an interception.
DeMarco Murray, 14 carries for 87 yards and a TD; Khiry Robinson, five carries for 13 yards.
The Saints, who opened the season playing three of four games away from home, will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3) next Sunday at noon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.