CLEVELAND — Germain Ifedi has been a popular target of fan and media criticism since being taken in the first round by the Seahawks in 2016.

But coach Pete Carroll has continued to show faith in him, maybe never more so than now, when injuries to Duane Brown and D.J. Fluker meant he needed Ifedi to serve as a leader more than ever (Jamarco Jones made his first career start lining up next to Ifedi at right guard).

“I was leaning on him this week that we’re losing a couple guys and he needs to send a message and stand for the message of what we’re about this week,’’ Carroll said.

Seahawks 32, Browns 28

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Carroll said he felt Ifedi did just that in helping the Seahawks to a 32-28 victory over the Browns.

Ifedi often had to go up against former college teammate Myles Garrett (the two played two years together at Texas A&M), who came into the game second in the NFL in sacks with seven.

Garrett got two more Sunday, but neither came against Ifedi.

On a Russell Wilson 6-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Brown that put the Seahawks ahead in the third quarter, Ifedi held off Garrett long enough for Wilson to move around and let Brown come open.

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Ifedi, though, said he couldn’t really recall the play later, joking: “I never remember the touchdowns. I’m just happy I was able to give him the time.’’

Ifedi’s steadiness — to use Carroll’s term — helped the offensive line overcome the losses of Brown and Fluker.

“It didn’t really faze us,’’ he said of playing without Brown and Fluker. “We didn’t do anything different at all. … We just went through the game plan and did exactly what we wanted to do. No restrictions at all.’’

Wilson was sacked three times and hit three other times, so the line was hardly perfect.

But Seattle also gained 170 rushing yards, with running back Chris Carson getting a career-high 124 yards, and Seattle’s 454 total yards were the second most of the season.

“We have some things to clean up,’’ Ifedi said. “But overall we’re pretty excited about what we were able to do.’’

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Malfunctioning helmet causes Wilson to improvise

Wilson said he had some issues with the headset in his helmet in the third quarter, which caused him to have to call the plays on his own for a little while.

One of the series ended with Wilson’s second touchdown pass to Brown that put Seattle ahead 25-20.

“I couldn’t hear anything so I just kept calling plays,’’ Wilson said. “When you study the game plan, you know what you want to do.’’

The Seahawks went no-huddle for part of that series, in part due to the communication issues — Wilson said he handled it basically like a two-minute drive, when he also often makes the calls.

Carroll laments he didn’t take safety

Should Seattle have just taken a safety rather than punting out of its own end zone holding a 25-20 lead with 9 minutes, 53 seconds remaining in the game?

That can maybe be debated — taking the safety would have gotten the Browns within a field goal and give them the ball back, maybe needing only a first down or two to try a field goal.

But Carroll said he wishes Seattle had done just that rather than punt — especially knowing what happened next. Michael Dickson had a rare shank, the ball going just 23 yards, giving the Browns the ball at the Seattle 24.

The Browns needed just two Nick Chubb runs to score and take a 28-25 lead. Chubb had just been stopped at the 2 on fourth down on the preceding series, which set in motion the chain of events.

Seattle couldn’t move, and Dickson came on to punt.

“We didn’t handle it very well,’’ Carroll said. “I messed it up.’’

Specifically, he said he wanted to tell Dickson to take the safety.

“I was signaling to Mike, and Mike didn’t see me,’’ Carroll said. “I should have called time out and I didn’t. We should have taken the safety back there. It was the perfect time to do that and then kick the ball out. I just couldn’t get Mike’s attention and I should have done better.’’

As for the punt, Carroll said the obvious: “He didn’t hit it well.’’