Even at 39 years old, Tom Brady is still one of the NFL’s finest quarterbacks. The sixth-round pick with little notoriety and a then-average-at-best throwing arm has come a long way since his start as Drew Bledsoe’s backup on the New England Patriots. Save for the 2008 NFL season, where he missed all but one game to injury and temporarily ceded his starting job to Matt Cassel, Brady has been the man behind center for the Patriots since the third game of the 2001 season.

But with his DeflateGate suspension looming, Brady will be missing the most regular season time since 2008, and it was just fitting that he reminded the New York Giants of what to expect when he returns, playing the entire first half as the Patriots beat the Giants, 17-9, in preseason action at the MetLife Stadium.

Brady in good form as Pats take preseason finale

Although New England coach Bill Belichick mostly fielded backups for his offensive unit, that didn’t stop Brady from going 16-for-26 for 166 yards, throwing for one touchdown and one interception.

He played the whole of the first half, leaving the game with the Patriots leading the Giants, 6-3. Further, he had participated in 36 offensive plays, his most action in five preseason finales so far. And it was all in the interests of getting as much action in before he begins serving his DeflateGate suspension.

Backups provided little help, but that wasn’t much of an issue

It wasn’t the best performance for Brady, but it was still a good one, and one could even say it was remarkable because of the lack of help he got from the Patriots’ offensive backups.

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Superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski didn’t travel to the MetLife with the rest of the team, while the Patriots elected not to use wide receiver Julian Edelman extensively. Instead, Brady had to rely on undrafted rookie D.J. Foster at running back, and backup wide receivers Keshawn Martin, Chris Hogan, and Aaron Dobson. He was likewise protected by a host of offensive line backups, with guard Josh Kline being the only starter who played more than four series.

Until Brady returns on October 3, he will be replaced in the starting lineup by youngster Jimmy Garoppolo, who will become only the fourth player to start at quarterback for the Patriots since 1999.

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