Playoffs now a reach for Broncos

The Denver Broncos are in a bad position, and they can blame themselves. Denver started the season 6-0, and even after some losses in the middle of the season the Broncos could have salvaged a playoff spot with two wins in its final two games.

After last-minute losses to Oakland and Philadelphia, the Broncos now need to win and get help to make the playoffs.

The Jets and Ravens now control their own playoff destiny. While the Broncos will be preoccupied by what is going on around the NFL, they'll have to focus on beating Kansas City. After losing to the lowly Raiders two weeks ago, that can't be taken for granted.

"I don't think we can worry about all the other factors," Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. "The thing that we need to focus on is Kansas City. I think if we start talking about other things at this point in time, we are probably wasting energy on it because there is nothing we can do to control that."

Denver put itself in this position with some poor play. The Broncos have lost some close games during their 2-7 skid, but the Eagles game was a good example of the problems they have caused themselves.

Denver came out flat and was down 10-0 early. The lead grew to 27-10 as Donovan McNabb picked apart a secondary that suddenly was having miscommunication issues -- something that hadn't happened all season. The offense had bogged down, with a lack of a playmaker outside of Brandon Marshall.

When the team finally came alive and rallied to score 17 unanswered points, the Broncos still made mistakes. All they got out of three fourth-quarter possessions that started at about midfield was a field goal. They allowed the Eagles to make two big plays -- a 27-yard run by Donovan McNabb on third-and-25 and a 27-yard catch to Jeremy Maclin in the final minute that set up the game-winning field goal.

"Guys are playing hard and hanging in there and fighting and clawing, but part of football is playing smart," Holliday said. "At times today we didn't play smart, and they capitalized."

And the Broncos are in a tough spot, with the playoffs out of their control. They are alive, but the chances dimmed greatly in December.

"Being 8-7 doesn't mean we're out of the playoffs," McDaniels said. "It certainly doesn't mean we're in, either."

LINEUP WATCH: Ben Hamilton was benched earlier this season, but the longest tenured Bronco was back in the lineup at left guard against Philadelphia. Russ Hochstein left the game with a knee injury, and Hamilton came back in. There was no update on Hochstein's status for the season finale. The Broncos had no injuries across the line last season, but have taken a few hits this year. Ryan Harris is out for the season with a toe injury.

UNDER THE RADAR: For 14 weeks receiver Brandon Lloyd was inactive. He finally got a chance to play Sunday because Eddie Royal was inactive, then was thrust into a big role when two other receivers were out. Rookie receiver Kenny McKinley suffered a knee injury and Brandon Stokley was ejected for making contact with an official, so Lloyd was pressed into duty as Denver's third receiver. Lloyd didn't play badly, with four catches for 22 yards, and could get more opportunities in the season finale and the playoffs if Denver makes it.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Champ Bailey had a solid game against DeSean Jackson. He wasn't in coverage on Jackson's short touchdown but shadowed him most of the game. Jackson had only four catches for 33 yards, and Bailey had an interception. Bailey did allow a 41-yard pass interference penalty.

--CB Alphonso Smith returned punts and kicks on Sunday because Eddie Royal was inactive and Kenny McKinley hurt his knee in the first quarter. Correll Buckhalter was going to return kickoffs but twisted his ankle. Smith made a few plays on returns, a bright spot in an otherwise quiet rookie year.

--WR Brandon Marshall topped 100 catches for the third straight season but his eight catches against Philadelphia weren't very productive. He had 39 yards with a long gain of 9. He has a prime matchup in Week 17 against Kansas City and will be targeted often in a must-win game.

--RB Knowshon Moreno's late-season swoon continued. He had 18 yards on nine carries against Philadelphia. He seems to be tiring late in his rookie year, although he did have a 16-yard touchdown reception.

--WR Jabar Gaffney was Denver's second receiver against the Eagles with Eddie Royal inactive. Gaffney had seven catches for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns, taking advantage of constant attention to Brandon Marshall.



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