It's been a tough season for the San Francisco 49ers on the defensive side of the ball. Ezekiel Elliott dominating in Week 3 was just a sign of things to come. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

49ers express faith in embattled defensive coordinator

SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers have made a habit of being dominated by opposing offenses.

They have the league’s worst run defense and surrendered another 248 yards on Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, a team that isn’t traditionally known for its ground attack.

They’ve failed in almost every defensive metric conceivable and have been heading in the wrong direction each week since the season opener when they stymied the Los Angeles Rams.

Many fans have wondered aloud if the continually disappointing performances will cost defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil his job.

According to head coach Chip Kelly, that’s not going to happen in the near future.

“I think it’s everybody’s fault on the defensive side,” Kelly said. “I think we’ve got to do a better job at putting our players in a position to make plays. That’s all of us, that’s me. That starts with the head coach, I don’t blame one single person for that.”

Inside linebacker Eli Harold made no attempts to hide his frustration after the Niners’ 41-23 loss.

“It’s unexplainable,” he said. “It sucks, dude.”

When asked if other offensive coordinators have figured out the 49ers’ schemes, Harold did little to dismiss that notion.

“I know that [opposing OCs] say we’re going to say we’re going to start running the ball until they stop us. They should, that’s their job,” Harold said. “I just feel like every team circles us on their calendar, and that’s something we’ve got to be better at, man. We can’t be the target. We can’t be the laughingstock. Each and every person has to do whatever they got to do to stop the bleeding.”

When asked if the 49ers are being out coached, veteran safety Antoine Bethea refused to take the bait and blame the staff.

“We have some great coaches and they put us in the right position,” he said. “As players, we’ve got to make plays. You can’t put this on the coaches. Not at all.”

The fact they’ve allowed a running back to reach 100 yards in each of their last seven games has not shaken Harold’s faith in O’Neil.

“Like I said since day 1, I love JO, I love his scheme. And I still feel that way. I truly and honestly believe it’s not the scheme.”

“No matter what he calls, we as men, we as pros in the National Football League should go out there and execute the call to the best of our ability,” he continued “… I’m never going to lose faith in him.”

That’s true of Harold, but likely not the rest of the Faithful. The Niners return to action on the road next Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, who have one of the league’s best running backs in David Johnson and will be coming off a bye week.

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