The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - INSIDE SLANT

The San Francisco 49ers have been outscored 57-3 in their two preseason games. The good news, however, is very few of the team's mainstays have gotten much playing time.

Their latest disappointing performance came Sunday, getting shut out 34-0 by the Denver Broncos against the backdrop of opening brand new Levi's Stadium. The starting offense played just two series, while six starters on defense sat out.

"We need to make decisions on who we're playing with," head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We're not going to keep experimenting. We've got to tighten this down fast."

Harbaugh and his staff have predictably put a big load on his reserves through two preseason games. After three straight seasons of reaching at least the conference title game, keeping his players fresh and out of the training room has been the mandate two weeks into the preseason slate.

It's been much of the same during practice, with starters receiving scant reps while reserves take the bulk of the load, and the bulk of the day-to-day pounding. Players like running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Stevie Johnson, linebacker Patrick Willis, and defensive linemen Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have all done very little work to this point during the team's more physical portions of practice.

Sunday's drumming, however, was cause for concern given the ever-positive Harbaugh's reaction to the game.

"Just overall us playing as units needs to be a heck of a lot more precise. That's why we got to drill down now and see who we're playing with and see who rises to the challenge this week," he said.

Denver's first two quarterbacks, Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, looked ready for 2014 to start, completing a combined 22 of 27 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns.

The 49ers defense, lacking their entire starting line along with linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Willis struggled against Denver's up-tempo offense after going against the Ravens' more traditional approach in the preseason opener.

But it was the offense that was receiving the scrutiny for its play Sunday, particularly the quarterbacks.

When San Francisco traded a late-round pick in May's draft for Blaine Gabbert, they assumed the $2 million guaranteed would be a worthy investment. But Gabbert hasn't inspired confidence with his play to this point. After completing just 3 of 11 passes in Baltimore, the former Jaguar connected on 8 of 14 passes, mostly quick hitters, but ended up throwing an interception for the second straight game.

Gabbert was looking for Quinton Patton in the third quarter down the middle of the field, but underthrew him, allowing defensive back Tony Carter to undercut the play and make the easy interception. Had Gabbert thrown the ball further out in front of Patton, he might have connected on a big play. He has not completed a pass of more than 10 yards down the field through two preseason games.

Entering their third preseason game Sunday against the Chargers, the 49ers figure to play the starters more than in the first two games in order to get ready for the regular season. However, it could also be a chance for Gabbert to get extensive work after Colin Kaepernick in order to build some confidence within the new offense heading into the regular season.


NFL Team Report - San Francisco 49ers - NOTES, QUOTES

--Starting right tackle Anthony Davis returned to practice Tuesday after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery to repair a "labrum, biceps" injury he suffered during Week 3 of last season. Davis played through the injury, extending his consecutive starts streak to 64 to begin his career after being drafted No. 11 overall in 2010.

With Davis out, Jonathan Martin has gotten the majority of reps with the first team at right tackle. Despite some inconsistencies, Martin received praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh Tuesday.