SAN FRANCISCO — Quarterback Randall Cunningham and newcomer Charlie Garner rode roughshod over San Francisco's supposedly stellar defensive cast in a 40-8 beating Sunday that got so bad the 49ers all but conceded the game.
With Philadelphia's defense teeing off and Steve Young taking another beating behind a makeshift line, 49er Coach George Seifert lifted Young with 4:09 left in the third quarter following William Fuller's sack. It was the third consecutive shot on Young.
"I probably should have changed earlier," Seifert said. "When he took that shot in the shoulder, I said, 'The hell with it. I'm not leaving him in.' We have a lot of football left.' "
The change was made with Philadelphia leading, 33-8.
Before being replaced by Elvis Grbac, Young threw two interceptions and was sacked by Fuller for a safety in one of his worst outings in four years as San Francisco's starter. By the fourth quarter, the 49ers were playing reserves.
"As far as total team effort, I have to say this is the best we've ever played," Fuller said. "Was it a fluke? Were they banged up? It's of no concern to me."
Young was upset over being taken out, but acknowledged he has been taking a pounding while playing behind an injury-racked line.
"As a player you want to go the distance. There's never a time when you say, 'Well, this game is over,' " Young said. "I would much rather beat myself to a pulp trying to get back into the game than have to wait until next week."
It was the worst regular-season loss for San Francisco since a 59-14 defeat by the Dallas Cowboys in 1980, and the worst overall since a 49-3 playoff loss at the New York Giants in 1986.
"Yes, I was very surprised and it wasn't easy," said Cunningham, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. "What happened today was we used our talent like we never used it before. . . . This game should give us respect and it should be a real confidence booster."
Garner, making his NFL debut, ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 28-yard pass. He had missed the past six weeks with a rib fracture and left in the third quarter with a back bruise.
"Charlie jump-started our running game," Philadelphia Coach Rich Kotite said. "He's so quick getting into the hole."
Garner had been increasingly frustrated while waiting his chance to play.
"It's been tedious doing the same thing over and over for weeks," said Garner, who had been sidelined since an Aug. 13 exhibition game against the New York Jets. "The treadmill, the films. It got kind of depressing after a while.
"This was the first action I've had in a long time. It's been a long time coming."
Nor was Garner pleased at being taken out.
"All I was thinking about was getting a couple of more carries," he said. "I was angry I wasn't going back in. Every small back has to prove his durability. In my case, even more, because I've already been hurt."
San Francisco, which hired seven key defensive free agents, began the game without its latest acquisition, cornerback Deion Sanders, who sprained his left ankle during Wednesday's practice.
But after the Eagles marched down the field on their opening possession, Sanders returned to right cornerback.
Even with Sanders joining a lineup that includes such Pro Bowl acquisitions as Rickey Jackson and Ken Norton, there was no stopping the Eagles--on either side of the ball.
"Not in my wildest dreams did I think this could happen," said San Francisco safety Tim McDonald.
Breakdowns in San Francisco's patchwork line, though, were no surprise, and the 49ers never hit their offensive stride.
"We're an explosive group. It almost seemed surreal the way it went," Young said.