A few positives from the Rams' loss to Dallas (semi-seriously)
ST. LOUIS -- Finding positives for the Rams a day after their embarrassing 31-7 loss at Dallas is as difficult as finding a reason to root for Walter White these days.
But try hard enough and both can be done. As for the Rams, here are five takeaways that might have been overlooked in the miserable performance that wasn't supposed to happen with Jeff Fisher in charge.
The Cowboys didn't laugh at the Rams
Based on comments after the game, the Cowboys looked at their victory like they beat a quality opponent.
Check this quote from Jerry Jones about the Dallas defense: "I can't recall when I've seen us play better. Ever."
Now that might be a bit of an overstatement considering the Cowboys have had some dominant defenses in Jones' 25 years with the team, but at least he wasn't scoffing at the competition.
When the Cowboys lost at Kansas City a week ago, it looked like the Rams might be facing an underachieving opponent in Dallas. The Cowboys, however, used their defeat to Kansas City to fuel their motivation against the Rams. They were ready for a big-time showing on Sunday. Too bad their opponent wasn't.
Tavon Austin returned a punt for a touchdown
The rookie speedster showed speed, nifty footwork and an ability to use blockers on an 84-yard return in the second quarter. Alas, the play was nullified after not one, but two flags on the play.
Brandon McGee was caught holding before Austin even caught the ball and T.J. McDonald was called for a blindside block that once would not have been a penalty. TV analyst Daryl Johnston called it a legal hit before the referee announced otherwise.
When special teams coordinator John Fassel was shown discussing with an official another blindside block, this one called on McGee, I wondered if even the coaches completely understand the rule. It will be difficult to "clean up" all the special teams penalties if the players don't fully know what's legal.
Janoris Jenkins blocked a field goal, maybe
The play-by-play listed the 35-yard attempt by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey as "no good." But Bailey told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his errant 35-yard attempt "actually got tipped."
"You hear and see the ball when you make contact, then you hear something else, and you look up, and it's not exactly going where you thought it was going to be," Bailey said.
Based on the replay, if Jenkins got any ball, it wasn't more than a finger or two.
The 49ers are off to an even rougher start
At least the Rams weren't blown out at home, as the Niners were in a 27-7 loss to Indianapolis. After losing 29-3 at Seattle last week, the NFC champs have taken the early lead for most disappointing team of 2013.
Colin Kaepernick completed just 13 of 27 passes for 150 yards and threw an interception in a performance that actually was better statistically than his previous week's. Against the Seahawks, Kaepernick hit on 13 of 28 passes for 127 yards and three interceptions.
The Niners could be missing not one, but two All-Pro linebackers at Thursday night's game at the Dome. Patrick Willis left in the second half of Sunday's game with a groin injury and did not return. Linebacker Aldon Smith definitely is out after announcing Sunday that he is taking a leave to get treatment for what is believed to be a substance-abuse problem.
They didn't let DeMarco Murray set a record
Sure, Murray ran all over the Rams for 175 yards, but still that was 78 yards fewer than the record total he piled up against the Rams in 2011. So there was some improvement.
OK, now this is getting sarcastic. Sorry, but there's not much else to say about the Rams that's positive at this point.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.