BRONCOS BATTER BUMBLING NINERS

Friday's 35-7 blowout loss to the Denver Broncos in a preseason finale at Invesco Field wasn't much for finding out anything new about the 49ers. Except for one thing.They may have found a new punter.

Besides learning unequivocally that they have neither the depth or experience of the Broncos, the Niners also discovered that newcomer Jason Baker can punt. And he may have just punted himself onto the team's final 53-man roster - and booted incumbent Chad Stanley off - with a tremendous debut with the team.

Baker, claimed off waivers Thursday after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles, averaged 50.5 yards on his four punts, including kicks of 61 and 55 yards. He also downed one kick inside the Denver 9-yard line. Stanley averaged 39 yards on his three punts - and that was easily his best showing of the preseason. He was averaging 34.2 yards on 10 preseason punts entering the game.

"We have a decision to make," said Niners coach Steve Mariucci, who saw Baker - who met the team in Denver after being claimed - kick for the first time before the game. "(Baker) actually punted better in the game than he did beforehand."

The Niners held out 12 players, including nine starters, and it showed. Starting in place or regular Jeff Garcia, Niners quarterback Tim Rattay tossed a poorly-thrown interception on the game's fourth play that Denver linebacker John Mobley returned 30 yards for a touchdown.

It was a shoddy performance for Rattay in his attempt to unseat veteran Rick Mirer as Garcia's backup. Rattay fumbled twice and also threw another interception that Eric Davis returned 24 yards for a touchdown to make the score 21-7 and point the game toward the rout in became.

The Niners, who were out-gained 393-155, fumbled five times, but recovered each of them. Rattay and Mirer combined to complete just eight of 19 passes for 72 yards.


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