He looked fine early, but then threw three interceptions in a game-turning 6-minute stretch late in the first half, and the Texans marched to an impressive opening win in what they believe can be a Super Bowl season.
Texans defensive end J.J. Watt deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions and also had 1½ sacks. Watt missed most of training camp with a dislocated left elbow.
Tannehill finished 20 of 36 for 219 yards. He made his pro debut on the same field where he played his last college game, leading Texas A&M to a 33-22 win over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl last December.
Schaub threw for 266 yards in his first action since fracturing his right foot in Week 10 last year, and Johnson finished with 119 yards receiving.
Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 72 yards for Miami's touchdown. The Dolphins gained only 275 total yards.
The Texans, who've boldly adopted a "Super Bowl or Bust" mantra, came out sluggish. They dropped passes and missed tackles early and trailed 3-0 midway through the second quarter. The team unfurled a red, white and blue "2011 AFC South Champions" banner before the game, but the impatient fans were already booing after another drive stalled in the second period.
That's when Houston's defense, the catalyst of last year's playoff drive, came alive.
Pro Bowl cornerback Johnathan Joseph started the flurry of Miami turnovers when he intercepted Tannehill and weaved 36 yards down the sideline. Mike Pouncey shoved Joseph out of bounds for a personal foul, setting up Houston at the Miami 7.
The Texans' offense couldn't convert for a touchdown. Schaub was sacked by Randy Starks, eliciting more boos, and Shayne Graham tied it with a 35-yard field goal.
On Miami's next series, the 6-foot-5 Watt deflected Tannehill's pass at the line, and Brian Cushing came down with another interception. Schaub converted a third down with a 24-yard pass to Johnson, and Foster weaved for a 14-yard touchdown to put Houston in front.
Foster, who sat out Friday's practice with a sore knee, flipped the ball toward the official and offered his customary bow to the re-energized fans in the end zone.
Watt swatted Tannehill's next pass and cornerback Kareem Jackson came down with it at the Miami 27. Richard Marshall then was called for pass interference and Foster plowed into the end zone from the 1.
Tannehill handed off on Miami's next play from scrimmage, but that didn't work for the floundering Dolphins, either. Daniel Thomas fumbled and Danieal Manning recovered at the Dolphins 31 with 28 seconds left before halftime. Schaub then threw a pinpoint pass to the end zone for Johnson, who outmuscled Sean Smith for a 24-3 halftime lead.
Thomas, Miami's second-leading rusher last season, left with a head injury and did not return.
Graham added 40- and 19-yard field goals after Thigpen's punt return.
Miami 10, Houston 30
Miami 3 0 7 0 10
Houston 0 24 3 3 30
Mia • FG Carpenter 39, 3:12.
Hou • FG S.Graham 35, 6:12.
Hou • Foster 14 run (S.Graham kick), 1:53.
Hou • Foster 2 run (S.Graham kick), :43.
Hou • Johnson 14 pass from Schaub (S.Graham kick), :07.
Mia • Thigpen 72 punt return (Carpenter kick), 13:12.
Hou • FG S.Graham 40, 6:30.
Hou • FG S.Graham 19, 12:22.
Attendance • 71,566.
First downs 15 19
Total Net Yards 275 337
Rushes-yards 19-79 35-83
Passing 196 254
Punt Returns 2-76 1-14
Kickoff Returns 6-155 3-47
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 3-40
Comp-Att-Int 20-36-3 20-31-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-23 2-12
Punts 3-44.3 5-43.6
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-78 4-35
Time of Possession 25:16 34:44
Rushing • Miami, Bush 14-69, Thomas 3-11, Tannehill 2-(minus 1). Houston, Foster 26-79, Tate 5-6, Schaub 4-(minus 2).
Passing • Miami, Tannehill 20-36-3-219. Houston, Schaub 20-31-0-266.
Receiving • Miami, Bush 6-46, Bess 5-45, Hartline 3-50, Fasano 3-19, Thomas 1-32, Lane 1-24, Armstrong 1-3. Houston, Johnson 8-119, Daniels 4-87, Tate 3-22, Walter 2-16, Casey 1-17, Jean 1-9, Foster 1-(minus 4).
Missed Field Goals • Houston, S.Graham 52 (SH).