Tom Brady plays, has a sharp streak for the Buccaneers

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

Brady didn’t play much Saturday night for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he looked ready for the season opener.

Brady took a series against the Indianapolis Colts and looked pretty good. He overthrew Mike Evans on one pass but was accurate 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 the star’s youngest receiver. He found Julio Jones on a 20-yard strike near the sideline. The throw had good velocity and was the biggest play in Brady’s short outing. The drive ended with a field goal, and the Buccaneers let him sit out the rest of the night.

Brady had not played in the first two preseason games. He also took an 11-day break from training camp, which is strange, but the team fully supported his time off. Brady appeared in two preseason games in 2021, so it wasn’t all that unusual for him to take some time off before the start of the regular season.

Brady acclimated with the starting offense. The Bucs ran a lot without fumbles when they were in the game. He had to complete a pass to Jones before the regular season started. He got out of the game without getting hit. It was a productive evening.

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

Team in focus: Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns had to take a decent look at Jacoby Brissett. He will be their back for a while.

Brissett did not play in the first two preseason games. He also missed a few camp practices from Deshaun Watson. The Browns will play Brissett to start the season, as Watson is coming off an 11-game suspension, so he needed some preseason action. It wasn’t great.

Brissett wasn’t getting much going down. It was probably a reasonable preview of the Browns’ offense as long as Brissett is starting. Most of his shots were safe and short. Brissett threw an interception, but his receiver, Anthony Schwartz, went down on the play after being thrown out of his route.

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

Brissett was out, even in some completions. He threw some 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 for a 4-yard catch. Brissett had a throw down that was pretty good in tight coverage, but Anthony Schwartz couldn’t bring it in after he got it. Brissett’s best throw came late, when he had a hard hit to David Bell for a 14-yard gain on third-and-10.

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

That’s how the Browns will be, at least until Watson returns. They will play good defense. They will run the ball a lot. And they’re going to ask Brissett to move the chains. Maybe that formula looks better than it did on Saturday night.

Standout players: Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill

The Miami Dolphins probably wanted to make a statement with their first game 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 to Hill probably would have resulted in a touchdown, but it was more than 50 yards downfield. It was a nice connection. Tagovailoa hit Hill again 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, even though the Eagles didn’t use starters. He was 6-of-7 for 121 yards. The Dolphins led 17-0 when he sat down and Teddy Bridgewater entered in the fourth. It was a good outing for him. The deep pass to Hill is all they need to see the Dolphins through before the games count.

Other games

Atlanta Falcons 28, Jacksonville Jaguars 12: Neither team played a starter. Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier scored two touchdowns but had just 26 yards on eight carries. The star of the 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 making the final roster cuts.

Cincinnati Bengals 16, Los Angeles Rams 7: Both teams sat at the start, which was made even easier after contentious joint practices this week. We didn’t get much out of this game, although Bengals backup QB Brandon Allen looked decent with 130 yards on 11-of-15 passing.

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans: We don’t know what Titans rookie Malik Willis will be as an NFL quarterback, but he certainly has the physical skills to stick around in the league. He made a 50-yard dash look easy when he couldn’t find anyone open and decided to run for it.

Washington, Baltimore Ravens Governors: It’s not the biggest problem since the starters didn’t play for either team, but the Ravens probably wanted to see more than 1 yard on seven rushing attempts in the first half. The Ravens have an uncertain situation heading into the season, and Saturday night could add to the concern.

Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos: The starters for both teams did not play. The Broncos barely played any starters all preseason and some VIkings players barely played in the opener before starting the rest of the preseason (10 starters he didn’t play at all). Both teams’ head coaches are putting more emphasis on staying healthy before the regular season begins.

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 made a nice move after most of the Browns starting defense sat. He completed all five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.

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

The fields looked good. Even if it wasn’t against the Browns’ top defense, it was a positive way to get out of the preseason.

• In a perfect world, Titans rookie Treylon Burks would sit out with the other Titans starters Saturday night, but at least he ended the preseason on a good note. He had a 14-yard touchdown catch. Burks 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 took nearly the entire game. He finished 14-of-21 for 185 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. While one pick was a desperation pass to end the first half, the first was a bad decision for the middle of the field.

Ridder needs some work, but he has shown enough in the preseason that the Falcons should still be interested in 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 did not play). By midway through the third quarter, when other backs went to work, those four had combined for 113 yards on 17 carries. Each back averaged at least 6.5 per carry. The Eagles didn’t care much in the preseason finale, but Miami could do well this season.

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