Kris Richard, the first-year defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, is comfortable taking responsibility for his unit’s meltdowns and miscues. “It starts and stops with me,” he said.

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Kris Richard is sitting in the big chair now, and rest assured he knows exactly what that means.

“I’m the defensive coordinator,’’ he said, with intensity. “It starts and stops with me.”

For all those barking about “accountability” in the wake of a series of fourth-quarter meltdowns by the Seahawks’ defense — most glaringly on the heels of an embarrassing communications error at crunch time last Sunday — Richard is taking it. With gusto.

Kris Richard file

Born: Oct. 28, 1979 (age 35)

High school: Serra High School in Gardena, Calif., where he was an All-American CB, QB and WR.

College: USC, where he played under Pete Carroll

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Sociology (2002)

NFL: Drafted in third round (85th overall) of 2002 draft. Played in Seattle for three seasons. Traded to Dolphins in 2005. Also signed with 49ers (2005) and Raiders (2007).

Coaching: Hired by Carroll at USC as a graduate assistant for USC defensive backs. Left with Carroll to coach Seahawks DBs in 2010. Replaced Dan Quinn as defensive coordinator Feb. 9, 2015.

Personal: He and wife Chandra have a daughter and two sons.

Elevated to the coordinator position after Dan Quinn left to become Atlanta’s head coach, Richard is finding that the relative anonymity of his prior job, secondary coach, is no longer a luxury afforded to him. When the vaunted Seahawks defense — the NFL’s top unit three year’s running — shows signs of vulnerability, he’s at the business end of fans’ finger-pointing.

“That’s ultimately what it comes down to,’’ Richard said. “When there’s a breakdown in the secondary, I coach the secondary. When there’s a breakdown on defense, I’m the defensive coordinator. It absolutely starts and stops with me. We’re going to get it fixed.”

History says he’s right, though the Seahawks can’t rely on the muscle-memory of history to bail them out forever. The strategy of meandering through the early part of the season, regrouping, then finishing the year with a vengeance is a tenuous one.

It worked fine last year, though, so it’s understandable the Seahawks are grabbing onto that. Here’s a statistic that might surprise you. Through the first six games in 2014, Seattle had given up 141 points — 16 more than they have allowed at the same point this season. And they had given up 1,947 yards — 30 more than they have so far this season.

The difference is the Seahawks had one more win last year at this point. But for all those revisionists who think it was smooth sailing all the time under Quinn, well, they’ve forgotten the early struggles from last season. And some late ones, including a Super Bowl in which the Seahawks couldn’t hold a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, a foreshadowing of this year’s troubles.

Yes, they have the same core players who rattled off 11 wins in 12 games last season to put them back in the Super Bowl. But it would be wise to stop using Seattle’s superhuman 2013 season, the one that put the Seahawks on the map, as their defensive benchmark.

They were so ridiculously deep that year — Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane were all available to play cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, for instance — that they could blast through miscues. Inevitably, by virtue of the salary cap, their depth has thinned, which means the margin of error keeps decreasing.

Which is where Richard comes in. He rightfully points out, as Pete Carroll did before him, that the Seahawks have played a lot of good football against a lot of good teams. But Richard understands that mistakes like the one at the end of the Carolina game, when defenders were operating two different coverage schemes, simply can’t occur.

“I accept full responsibility for what happened at the end,’’ Richard said. “And it won’t, will not, continue. We’ll just get better. We are examining each and every single possible thing we can do to fix it. Again, starting with me.”

Richard is a naturally upbeat fellow who is well-regarded, bordering on revered, by his players, particularly the Legion of Boomers he nurtured through their formative years.

Sherman said he hasn’t seen any personality change now that Richard is sitting in the hot seat — and it’s getting toastier by the week.

“He’s been the same old, same old,’’ Sherman said. “The demeanor doesn’t change. I think some people get caught up with this happened … all is lost. We’re more poised than that. We approach it a lot different than other people.

“At the end of the day, we understand what we did well, and we understand what went wrong. I don’t think he’s changed. He’s been pretty stable and pretty straight on. His attitude and approach has always been the same.”

And right now, Richard’s approach is to acknowledge the deficiencies thus far, own them, and redouble his efforts to conquer them. It’s been done before by the Seahawks. Which is no guarantee it will be done again.

Ask Richard about the pass rush, for instance, which kept Cam Newton in check for much of the game until the fourth quarter.

“There’s got to be something we can do, something I can do — a different call, something of that nature — where we can get the quarterback to hold the ball one more second longer to give us a chance to get to him,’’ he said.

And speaking of the secondary, which has not been the shutdown, ballhawking unit of past years, Richard said, “The last thing we ever wanted to be is the problem. We’ve always wanted to be the solution … When a play happens like it did at the end, and it comes down to our lack of execution, it hits home.”

Richard paused, interrupting the steady flow of questions about this breakdown or that mistake.

“It’s so close,’’ he said. “Everyone feels it, and everyone knows it. Just keep playing, and we will finish.”