"Nine in the box," Stewart Bradley was saying, sitting there on the set of "Daily News Live." He was talking about the Seahawks' occasional defensive strategy last Sunday. Seven defenders in the imaginary box that you can draw near the line of scrimmage is normal. Eight in the box signals a run-stopping strategy. Nine in the box is a big overload. The hope was clear. As Bradley said, "Stop Brian Westbrook."
Which means the Eagles are going to have to start throwing the ball downfield pretty soon.
This is not any great revelation -- they all know it. The pendulum swings back and forth during an NFL season, as offenses play to their strengths, as defenses adjust to those strengths, as offenses begin the process of re-adjustment. It's a constant tension. Right now, the Eagles are so Westbrook-centric, and he is so much their most potent weapon, that even nine in the box can make sense sometimes. But it has to change.
Against Seattle, with shaky protection at the beginning, with a quarterback misfiring, with really tight pass coverage near the line of scrimmage, with a run game outnumbered by the opposition, this coaching staff and their quarterback still were good enough to scheme their way out trouble by letting a backup tight end named Brent Celek carry them down the field. It was, in many ways, the kind of game that Andy Reid loves. He is an inveterate counter-puncher and he adores the days when they can win by completing passes to a thousand guys, when he can land one on the chin -- out of nowhere -- with a guy like Celek. (And we're not even going to talk about Todd Herremans.)
But better defenses are coming, starting Sunday. They are going to have to make a big play or two downfield or they will never clear the crowd around the line of scrimmage. They have made plays with Kevin Curtis and DeSean Jackson, last year and this year -- and Reggie Brown, too. They need to start throwing it long and throwing it outside the numbers. How about one shot per quarter? How about two in the first half and then see where they are? How about one in the first series, just to show it?
Start there. They need to start clearing this logjam.