He took responsibility for the late penalty that led to his ejection. That kind of accountability makes an impression, especially after a game like Sunday's in which the Seahawks could have complained they got the business end of the officiating stick.
CLEVELAND — Red Bryant stood tall in the locker room after Sunday’s game.
That had absolutely nothing to do with the two field-goal attempts he blocked, and everything to do with how he addressed a fourth-quarter penalty that resulted in his ejection.
“Under no circumstances is that acceptable,” Bryant said. “And me being a leader on this team, I’ve got to know better. No matter what.”
The Seahawks stopped the Browns on third down with just over a minute left in the game, Chris Clemons sacking Colt McCoy at the Seattle 25. The Browns were going to run some clock, attempt a field goal, and Seattle would get the ball back with no timeouts and less than 30 seconds remaining.
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At least the Seahawks were going to get the ball back until Bryant got up and head-butted Browns tight end Alex Smith directly in front of the official, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, an automatic first down for Cleveland and Bryant’s ejection.
“It is a big mistake,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Red knew it.”
He sure did. It was dumb. It hurt the team. Bryant has to do better than that. Just ask him. He used every one of those words to describe his mistake, his thick Texas drawl heavy with emotion.
That kind of accountability makes an impression, especially after a game in which the Seahawks could have complained they got the business end of the officiating stick.
And after all that, the player who was at the heart of Seattle’s admirable defensive effort raised his hand to say, “My bad.”
“I take full responsibility for that,” Bryant said.
Leadership was a question mark hanging over this defense since the season began. Veteran safety Lawyer Milloy was not re-signed, and linebacker Lofa Tatupu was released after serving as a captain since January 2006.
Cornerback Marcus Trufant was named a captain to start the season, but he was placed on injured reserve earlier this week because of a back injury.
But if there was any question about this defense’s constitution, it was answered in this game in which it spent almost 43 minutes on the field and allowed just six points.
Bryant is at the heart of that defense, the biggest player on a rough-and-tumble front that is allowing 3.2 yards per carry, fewest of any defense in the league. He had three solo tackles against the Browns, hit McCoy twice and shared a sack.
He also became the first Seahawk ever to block two field-goal attempts, and he was such a singular force that he said Smith had resorted to underhanded tactics.
“He was taking cheap shots at me,” Bryant said. “That’s what guys do when they can’t block you. He did a great job of getting in my head.”
So much so that Bryant felt compelled to smash his helmet into Smith with 1:18 left, drawing a flag and an ejection.
“I should have been smarter than that,” Bryant said.
Sometimes leaders emerge with a game-winning touchdown or a game-saving tackle. And sometimes they emerge out of the ashes of a backbreaking mistake, when the biggest man on the team’s best unit steps up the way Bryant did in the locker room Sunday.
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org