If this was a measuring-stick game for the Eagles, they came up as short as the list of plays Chip Kelly designed for running back DeMarco Murray on Sunday night. The bad news, in fact, far outweighed the good for the Eagles by the end of this chilly evening at Lincoln Financial Field that will be remembered more for its cold reality.
Most alarming, if not at all surprising, is that the Eagles found out they do not match up at all with the Arizona Cardinals, an elite NFL team that clinched the NFC West title with a 40-17 rout of the home team.
Too bad owner Jeffrey Lurie does not give his state-of-the-season address until after the season. Wouldn't it be nice to know why he did not give Bruce Arians a sniff as a head coaching candidate before he hired Chip Kelly?
The result of this game, however, was among the least of the Eagles' problems.
Far worse was the news on the injury front. With starting cornerback Nolan Carroll already lost for the season to an injury, the Eagles also watched his replacement - rookie Eric Rowe - leave in the first half with a head injury. He was followed out of the game by cornerback Byron Maxwell, who left with a shoulder injury.
Suddenly, the field was filled with Eagles defensive players who either didn't belong there or were out of position. Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond, for instance, were taking turns playing cornerback. And guys such as Jaylen Watkins, E.J. Biggers, and Ed Reynolds were being asked to play bigger roles than usual.
A depleted secondary against Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and his endless cast of talented receivers is a formula for disaster, and Arizona turned a tight first half into a dominating victory. Covering wasn't the only problem. Tackling was equally atrocious, as evidenced by a 47-yard touchdown run by David Johnson, who carried the ball 29 times for 187 yards.
"Unfortunately, there are no asterisks," Kelly said. "Everybody is hurt at this point in time during the season, and we have to make do. The biggest disappointment is really we just didn't tackle well. That's really where I look at it defensively. We just didn't tackle well, and we turned the ball over."
Oh, yeah, the Eagles turned it over four times, which was four more than the Cardinals, who also committed just one penalty.
"That's a good team," Jenkins said. "And when you do dumb stuff like miss tackles and turn the ball over, you lose to a good team."
You want controversy?
Look to the Eagles' running back situation, and you can always find it there. It was billed as a three-headed monster before the start of the season, but it has become a two-man team with the highly paid and increasingly unhappy Murray as the odd man out.
Murray played two snaps in the first half without touching the ball. When Ryan Mathews was stopped on a fourth-and-1 play near the end of the first half, NBC's Sunday Night Football production team used a split screen to simultaneously show Kelly and Murray. Both men looked miserable, and their moods are unlikely to brighten during Christmas week.
Quarterback Sam Bradford, who took his share of violent hits and even left the game for a play in the first quarter, finally handed the ball to Murray for the first time with 7 minutes, 28 seconds left in the third quarter. Murray gained a yard. Two plays later, Murray gained 2 more, and that was the extent of his workload.
Now for the good news: The Eagles remain very much alive in the NFC East, although the momentum they gained from consecutive wins over New England and Buffalo is as gone, as most of the fans were at the Linc by the end of the night.
Before the Eagles took the field Sunday, they watched the rest of their wretched division complete the work week.
They saw Dallas get knocked out of the playoff picture with a loss Saturday night to the New York Jets. Then they watched the New York Giants fall far behind, rally to tie, and still come up painfully short in their bid to knock Carolina from its perch as the NFL's only unbeaten team.
Wonderful work by quarterback Kirk Cousins in a win over Buffalo allowed Washington to prevent a four-game weekend sweep of the NFC East. It also allowed the Skins to take control of first place with a 7-7 record. It was the first time all season that Washington has won two games in a row, but that constitutes a hot streak in this division.
And so the Eagles will go through their short practice week facing a must win Saturday night against Washington. Lose, and the Skins would be the surprise winner of the NFC East. The recoveries of Maxwell and Rowe could determine whether the Eagles are good enough to beat Washington.
It will certainly be less of a challenge than they faced against the Cardinals. Washington is just 1-5 on the road this season, and it finishes with road games against the Eagles and Dallas.
Had the Eagles not fallen so woefully short against the Cardinals, they could have been in a position to clinch the division title on Saturday night. Instead, they will need to win Saturday and likely again in their season finale against the Giants.
What we know for certain is that the Eagles need to win their last two just to finish 8-8. And whether that means a spot in the playoffs or not, it definitely was not the record Kelly and his team were hoping for when this journey started in training camp at the end of July.