Thursday, October 6, 2022

NFL Preseason Blitz: Tom Brady plays, has a sharp series for Buccaneers

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Tom Brady could probably blow off the preseason if he wanted, but he obviously sees value in getting some snaps in before the season starts.

Brady didn’t play a lot on Saturday night for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 27-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but he looked like he’s ready for the season opener.

Brady got a series against the Indianapolis Colts and looked pretty good. He overthrew Mike Evans on one pass but was on target on his other seven. One pass was a bad drop by receiver Tyler Johnson, but Brady completed 6-of-8 passes for 44 yards on what was his only drive. The 45-year-old quarterback might need some snaps, but the Buccaneers weren’t going to expose him too much.

Brady’s best pass came to his newest star receiver. He found Julio Jones on a 20-yard strike near the sideline. The throw had good velocity on it and was the biggest play of Brady’s brief outing. The drive ended with a field goal, and the Buccaneers let him have the rest of the night off.

Brady hadn’t played in the first two preseason games. He also took an 11-day sabbatical from training camp, which is strange, but the team was fully supportive of his time off. Brady did appear in two preseason games in 2021, so it wasn’t that unusual for him to get some playing time before the regular season starts.

Brady got to acclimate himself with the starting offense. The Bucs ran a lot of no-huddle when he was in the game. He got to complete a pass to Jones before the regular season starts. He got out of the game without getting hit. It was a productive night.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

Spotlight team: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns needed to get a decent look at Jacoby Brissett. He’s going to be their quarterback for a while.

Brissett didn’t play in the first two preseason games. He also lost some practice snaps in camp to Deshaun Watson. The Browns will be rolling with Brissett to start the season as Watson starts an 11-game suspension, so he needed some preseason action. It wasn’t great.

Brissett didn’t get much going down field in a 21-20 loss to the Chicago Bears. It was probably a reasonable preview of the Browns’ offense as long as Brissett is starting. Most of his throws were safe and short. Brissett threw one interception, but his intended receiver, Anthony Schwartz, fell down on the play after he was knocked off his route.

Brissett played almost all of the first half and the Browns trailed 21-3 when he was pulled. They didn’t get on the board until a field goal with 1:25 left in the second quarter. Brissett was 13-of-23 for 109 yards. That’s a miserable 4.7 yards per attempt.

Brissett was off, even on some completions. He threw short of the sticks on a third-and-11 pass to David Njoku. He was wild on a pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones that the receiver made a nice play on for a 4-yard catch. Brissett did have a throw downfield that was delivered pretty well in tight coverage, but Anthony Schwartz couldn’t bring it in after he got a hand on it. Brissett’s best throw came late, when he had a strong strike to David Bell for a 14-yard gain on third-and-10.

The Browns starting defense looked good, even if it barely played. It stopped Bears running back David Montgomery for a loss of 1 yard and then no gain, and then Justin Fields threw incomplete on third down. That three-and-out was it for most of the Browns’ starting defensive players.

This is what the Browns will be, at least until Watson returns. They’ll play good defense. They’ll run the ball a lot. And they’ll ask Brissett to move the chains. Maybe that formula will look better than it did Saturday night.

Standout players: Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill

The Miami Dolphins probably wanted to make a statement with their first play on Saturday night. Tyreek Hill went deep and Tua Tagovailoa hit him for a 51-yard gain.

The throw is likely to be scrutinized, because a deeper throw leading Hill probably results in a touchdown, but it was more than 50 yards downfield. It was a nice connection. Tagovailoa hit Hill again underneath later in the drive, then threw a touchdown to River Cracraft. Tagovailoa completed all three passes on the drive. It was encouraging that two went to Hill, his new No. 1 target.

Tagovailoa was pretty good in Miami’s 48-10 win, even though the Eagles didn’t use starters. He was 6-of-7 for 121 yards. The Dolphins led 17-0 when he took a seat and Teddy Bridgewater entered at quarterback. It was a good outing for Tagovailoa. The deep pass to Hill is all the Dolphins needed to see before the games count.

Other games

Atlanta Falcons 28, Jacksonville Jaguars 12: Neither team played starters. Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier scored two touchdowns, but had just 26 yards on eight carries. The star of the running game was Caleb Huntley, who had 86 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. The Falcons have some interesting decisions to make at running back when they make final roster cuts.

Cincinnati Bengals 16, Los Angeles Rams 7: Both teams sat starters, which was an even easier decision after contentious joint practices this week. There wasn’t much to take from this game, though Bengals backup QB Brandon Allen looked decent with 130 yards on 11-of-15 passing.Tennessee Titans 26, Arizona Cardinals 23: We don’t know what Titans rookie Malik Willis will be as an NFL quarterback, but he certainly has the physical skills to stick in the league. He made a 50-yard run look easy when he couldn’t find anyone open and decided to run for it.

Tennessee Titans 26, Arizona Cardinals 23: We don’t know what Titans rookie Malik Willis will be as an NFL quarterback, but he certainly has the . There wasn’t much to take from this game, though Bengals backup QB Brandon Allen looked decent with 130 yards on 11-of-15 passing. Tennessee Titans 26, Arizona Cardinals 23: We don’t know what Titans rookie Malik Willis will be as an NFL quarterback, but he certainly has the physical skills to stick in the league. He made a 50-yard run look easy when he couldn’t find anyone open and decided to run for it.

Baltimore Ravens 17, Washington Commanders 15: It’s not the biggest issue since starters didn’t play for either side, but the Ravens probably wanted to see more than 1 yard on seven first-half rushing attempts. The Ravens have an uncertain running back situation heading into the season, and Saturday night might add to the concern. And, of course, Baltimore extended its record preseason win streak to 23.

Denver Broncos 23, Minnesota Vikings 13: The starters for both teams did not play. The Broncos barely played any key player all preseason and some Vikings’ starters barely played in the opener before taking the rest of the preseason off (10 starters didn’t play at all). Both teams’ first-year head coaches put a bigger emphasis on staying healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Final thoughts

• Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields had a productive night, albeit mostly against backups.

The Bears started with a three-and-out but Fields immediately put together a nice drive after most of the Browns starting defense took a seat. He completed all five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

He added two more touchdowns later, one to Dante Pettis and another to wide-open tight end Cole Kmet. Fields finished 14-of-16 for 156 yards and three TDs.

Fields looked good. Even if it wasn’t against the Browns’ top defense, it was still a positive way to exit the preseason.

• In a perfect world, Titans rookie Treylon Burks would have been sitting with the Titans’ other starters on Saturday night, but at least he finished the preseason on a good note. He had a 14-yard touchdown catch. Burks has had trouble climbing the depth chart before the season, but the first-round pick could still be a factor this season.

• Falcons rookie QB Desmond Ridder got nearly the entire game. He finished 14-of-21 for 185 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. While one pick was a desperate pass to end the first half, the first one was a bad decision to the middle of the field.

Ridder needs some work, but he has shown enough in the preseason that the Falcons should still be intrigued by his future.

• The Dolphins should be able to run the ball this season. New coach Mike McDaniel comes from the Kyle Shanahan tree, and the Shanahans have always had good running games. The Dolphins got big nights from Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed (starter Chase Edmonds didn’t play). Midway through the third quarter, when other backs started to work in, those four had a combined 113 yards on 17 carries. Each back averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry. The Eagles didn’t care much about the preseason finale, but Miami should be able to run it well this season.

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