Six games into their season, the Denver Broncos were the talk of the NFL.
They were a perfect 6-0 and their young first-year coach, Josh McDaniel, was hailed as the kid genius.
But following yesterday's gut-wrenching 30-27 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, the Broncos dropped to 8-7 and they lost control of their postseason chances.
"I don't know anything about the playoff picture or anything like that," Denver defensive end Darrell Reid said. "All I know is if we don't win next week [against Kansas City], there's no way we go to the playoffs."
Reid blamed a slow start for Denver's demise as the Eagles took a 20-7 halftime lead that grew to 27-10 midway through the third quarter. He said the Broncos have been haunted by slow starts in several of their losses, and they were cognizant that this flaw would lead them into deep trouble against a quick-starting team such as the Eagles.
Reid single-handedly tried to make certain the Broncos wouldn't be shoved into a hole early in the game when he recovered a fumble by Donovan McNabb after the quarterback had guided the Eagles to the Denver 19-yard line on their first possession.
But McNabb went on to have one of his finest halves of the season, completing 15 of 19 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. The second half, though, was a different story. McNabb completed only 5 of 16 passes for 93 yards and was sacked three times.
Reid said the only thing the Broncos did differently to get back into the game was play with their heads on straight.
"We didn't make any halftime adjustments," he said. "I think we just settled into the game. It's just unfortunate it took us so long to settle into the game. We had a bunch of mental errors early. We were leaving their guys wide open. I think it just took us too long to settle into the game."
Reid played a critical role in the Broncos comeback when he forced a fumble by Macho Harris on a kickoff return, setting up the 16-yard TD pass from Kyle Orton to Knowshon Moreno that pulled Denver within 27-24 at the end of the third quarter. The Broncos went on to tie the game at 27, but the Eagles survived on David Akers' 28-yard field goal as time wound down.
"At halftime, our guys just bought in and talked about communicating better on defense," defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said. "I admire the way our guys fought back. But now it [the playoffs] is out of our hands. We're trying to build something here, trying to become a good team. But in order to get to that level, you have to win games like this. We're so close to being the team we want to be, but we have to get over that hump."
Early in the game, the Broncos suffered a costly loss when receiver Brandon Stokley was ejected for making contact with an official. Stokley thought he was interfered with by Eagles linebacker Will Witherspoon and went ballistic. Orton was convinced Stokely was interfered with.
"He was interfered. I was right there and saw it," Orton said. "It seemed like there were a lot of those type of calls, and for some reason that wasn't one of them."