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In their latest defeat, Broncos are all over the map

They're up, they're down. They're 6-0, they're 2-7. They're glad, they're mad. There's no escaping it: The Broncos are as manic as their coach.

They're up, they're down.

They're 6-0, they're 2-7.

They're glad, they're mad.

There's no escaping it: The Broncos are as manic as their coach.

The upside of Josh McDaniels' fiery leadership style is that his team is as combative as he is.

Down by 27-10 to a very good team in a hostile environment, it came clawing back with 17 consecutive points to give itself a chance to pull the upset.

The downside is roiling emotions that saw Brandon Stokley charge a game official and get ejected, Daniel Graham fire his helmet into the ground on the sideline, and any number of their teammates unable to keep control of the mental side of the game.

"Mental mistakes," Brian Dawkins said after his own emotional homecoming. "We can't have that, and we had way too many communications mistakes back there."

The game was a microcosm of the Broncos' season - up and down and all over the place.

Watching them troop disconsolately to the locker room for the third week in a row, their once-bright hopes fading, Jimi Hendrix could have provided the soundtrack:

Manic depression is touching my soul

I know what I want but I just don't know

How to go about gettin' it.

Feeling, sweet feeling drops from my fingers,

Manic depression is catching my soul.

Even from a strategic standpoint, the Broncos are all over the map. After electing to kick off two weeks in a row - and losing both games - McDaniels changed his tactics yesterday, electing to receive the opening kickoff.

"We wanted to try to put some emphasis on starting fast and keeping them out of the end zone early in the game," he said.

His offense seemed to have forgotten how. It failed to make a single first down in the first quarter and managed all of four in the first half.

"Proud of the way our team fought, but we're learning some tough lessons that when you dig yourself holes like this against good football teams, ultimately it can be too big to dig out," McDaniels said.

As they did early in the season, the Broncos came out in the second half a different team. After surrendering 276 yards in the first half, the defense gave up just 118 in the second.

But while Philadelphia's three turnovers allowed the Broncos back in the game, the Denver offense produced just 241 yards and 13 first downs for the game.

Two plays illustrated the difference between the two offenses:

Facing a third and 25 from his 15 late in the fourth quarter with the game tied, the Eagles' Donovan McNabb scrambled for 27 yards and a first down. Although the Eagles ended up punting, it changed field position and set up a winning field goal on their last possession.

Facing a third and 9 from his 10 late in the fourth quarter with the game tied, the Broncos' Kyle Orton scrambled for 7 yards, falling short of a first down. Forced to punt from their 17, they gave the Eagles the ball in Denver territory, setting up David Akers' final field goal.

This is the frustration Broncos opponents felt for so many years. John Elway routinely pulled off plays ordinary quarterbacks could not. Maybe this is karmic payback.

Orton took full advantage of the opportunities Philadelphia provided through turnovers and penalties, throwing for three touchdowns and once again putting up an impressive passer rating. But McNabb made more plays.

Orton's big asset is taking care of the ball, but the limitations of that strategy are beginning to show.

"Sometimes you win the turnover margin like we've done the last couple of weeks and lose the game because you don't make a critical situational play, a third-down conversion or whatever it may be, and that's what happened," McDaniels said.

It's been an encouraging season because the Broncos have been better than expected. It's been a discouraging season because they followed a euphoric start with a crash landing.

Up and down. High and low. In McDaniels' first season, the Broncos have been Forrest Gump's box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.