As well as the Eagles' defense played in the 30-10 victory against the Browns, the best defensive play of the game was made by the offensive pair of Brian Westbrook and Hank Baskett on the final play of the first half.

Baskett, in fact, did not get nearly enough credit for making an amazing play.

When Brandon McDonald made his interception of a pass intended for Baskett in the left corner of the end zone, the Eagles receiver was eight yards behind the Browns' cornerback.

Some players might have given up on the pursuit at that point. Baskett did not.

Neither did Westbrook, who knew he had a good angle to track down McDonald. Westbrook finally caught up with the cornerback at the Eagles' 26-yard line, but a stiff arm prevented him from making the tackle.

But Westbrook's slowing down of McDonald allowed Baskett to come sprinting from behind to make the tackle at the 7-yard line. If Baskett had not made the play, tight end Brent Celek might have, because he had a decent angle on McDonald as well.

Only one thing took away from Baskett's hustle. He was the player guilty of not being on the line of scrimmage on the play, which resulted in a flag for illegal formation.

The rising defense

The Eagles' defense, coming off its best performance of the season against the New York Giants, played another outstanding game, limiting the offensively challenged Browns to just 196 total yards.

The Eagles now have the top-ranked defense in the NFC and are ranked No. 3 in the NFL, behind only Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The pass defense is ranked fourth in the league and the run defense is fifth.

A stronger leg

David Akers' increased leg strength at the age of 34 is not a myth. After three kickoffs for touchbacks Monday night, he now has 15 for the season, which is tied for eighth in the NFL. A year ago, he had six, which ranked 22d in the league.

The 15 touchbacks represent a career high for Akers, exceeding his personal high of 12 during his 2004 Pro Bowl season.

Crediting the coaches

Eagles coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are often criticized for their play-calling, but sometimes they should be credited for it.

Case in point: Faced with a third and 4 from the Browns' 48 in the second quarter, the Eagles ran a brilliantly designed and well-executed play that resulted in a 15-yard run by Correll Buckhalter for a first down.

McNabb faked a pitch right to Westbrook, then quickly handed the ball to Buckhalter, who went off right guard for the big gain. The fake froze Alex Hall, giving tackle Jon Runyan a little extra time to make a great block on the Browns linebacker. Buckhalter, meanwhile, ran the way he always does - hard.

Whiffed again

It boggles the mind that veteran cornerback Asante Samuel made the same mistake as rookie DeSean Jackson by releasing the football before crossing the goal line during his second-quarter interception return for a touchdown, but equally amazing is the fact that the officials whiffed on the play again as well.

In the Eagles' Week 2 Monday night game at Dallas, referee Terry McAulay's crew incorrectly signaled that Jackson had scored a touchdown even though he had discarded the football on the 1-yard line. It was reversed only after Dallas coach Wade Phillips challenged. Referee Bill Carollo clearly did the same Monday night, lifting his arms before Samuel realized his own bone-headed mistake and retrieved the football in the end zone.

Extra points

The Eagles' second offensive series should not have ended on an incomplete pass from McNabb to tight end L.J. Smith because Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers was guilty of illegal contact against rookie DeSean Jackson at the goal line. . . . One of the underappreciated things that Westbrook does on offense was revealed in the fourth quarter: Willie McGinest broke through the line of scrimmage and hit quarterback Kevin Kolb's arm as he threw a pass that was set off course and into the waiting arms of McDonald, who returned the interception for Cleveland's only touchdown. On that play, Kyle Eckel was the guy in charge of backfield protection, and he clearly did not have the same radar in that situation as Westbrook always does.

- Bob Brookover