Bill Belichick pulls surprise, plays Tom Brady through first half

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Bill Belichick is known for his unconventional ways, and he pulled a surprise in the New England Patriots' preseason finale by playing quarterback Tom Brady the entire first half against New York Giants backups.

That caused some anxious moments for those fans who were concerned about the possibility of Brady getting injured. One need only look to the Dallas Cowboys and injured quarterback Tony Romo as one example of how that can change the complexion of things in an instant.

But despite taking a few hits behind an offensive line without its top tackles for the final 25 snaps, Brady appeared to come out of the game clean and said he appreciated the opportunity for extended work. He even scrambled at one point in the first quarter for 10 yards, going into a slide to protect himself at the end of the run.

"I know I'm never going to be like Russell Wilson, but if I can make one or two of those a game, that helps us out a bit," Brady said.

In all, he played 39 offensive snaps, including a two-point conversion and a half-ending kneel-down. After starting slow, he finished 16-of-26 for 166 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.

Belichick had talked leading into the game about how it was important for Brady to play so he could be ready when he returns from a four-game suspension on Oct. 9, and that his on-field presence was important for teammates too. But few figured he'd go as deep into the game as he did, which figures to spark some good sports-radio chatter in the region.

Was Belichick flirting with trouble, and did he get away with one? Or was this yet another example of how he thinks outside the box as part of creating a winning culture?

Asked how he balances the idea of protecting a player from injury against playing him in that type of situation, Belichick said, "You can't take insurance out on players. You play football, you play football. I don't know how you get better playing football without playing football. You can stand around and talk about it all day, I don't think that really makes you a better player. At some point you have to get out there and play."

In a fourth preseason game that generally lacks compelling storylines, this one didn't because of Belichick's approach with Brady's playing time.

As for that loud exhale you might have heard in the New England region around 8:45 p.m. ET on Thursday night, it was the collective relief of many fans as rookie Jacoby Brissett entered the game at quarterback.

Mingo's impressive debut: Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 25, made an instant impact in his debut with a strip sack on his third play, and then he forced a fumble on the next play. He also timed a blitz up the middle as he proved to be one of the more disruptive players on defense. Most of the team's defensive starters played 10 snaps before departing, and that's when Mingo entered the game. He also showed up on all special-teams units, with Belichick saying on 98.5 The Sports Hub before the game, “I think he's going to help us.”

Did Foster do enough to make club? If there was one player who seemed to be auditioning for a spot on the roster, with the coaching staff wanting to take an extended look at him, it was undrafted rookie running back D.J. Foster (Arizona State). The 6-foot, 195-pound Foster, who could be a "passing back" option as Dion Lewis opens the season on the physically unable to perform list, played 26 of 39 offensive snaps in the first half. One of his highlights was a 30-yard catch from Brady on a wheel route, but he lost a fumble in the second quarter.

Gronkowski among 11 who don't suit up: Tight end Rob Gronkowski headlined a group of 11 players who didn't dress for the game; he hasn't played in the preseason since 2012. In addition to Gronkowski, wide receivers Chris Harper, Matthew Slater, Danny Amendola (PUP) and Malcolm Mitchell, cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc, defensive ends Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard, defensive end/outside linebacker Shea McClellin, and guards Jonathan Cooper and Shaq Mason weren't with the club.

Who got hurt?Starting left tackle Nate Solder came out of the game on the team's second offensive series and athletic trainers examined his left hamstring area. Rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, the sixth-round pick from Houston, was hurt covering a kickoff in the first quarter but returned. In the second half, running back Tyler Gaffney was having his foot/toe looked at on the sideline, while rookie receiver Devin Lucien was helped off after a late hit. Receiver Keshawn Martin limped off early in the fourth quarter.