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What we learned: Brady plays, Goff struggles again

The best part of Preseason Week 4 is the moment it ends. We are less than a week away from football that matters. The imitation stuff got us by for the last month but it all tends to look the same after a while.

The final preseason night, with 30 teams in action, is usually a snoozy evening watched only for the diehards, the desperate and those paid to watch. But this Thursday night was different.

In New Jersey, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time played an entire half of football to the consternation of the New England region. In San Diego, Colin Kaepernick was joined in his protest during the national anthem by a teammate before trying to save his roster spot. In Minnesota, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Jared Goff, couldn't do enough to prevent becoming a No. 3 quarterback on his own roster. This was not your normal final preseason night.

Here's what we learned from Thursday's preseason games:

  1. Colin Kaepernick made it tougher for the 49ers to cut him. He directed an impressive 15-play touchdown drive in his first series that included 58 passing yards and 30 yards on the ground from Kaepernick. His next two drives in a quick-moving half were less successful, but Kaepernick ultimately showed off a stronger arm and better wheels than he did a year ago. He looked comfortable in Chip Kelly's offense and helped the offense score on two of three drives.

No one knows what Kelly is thinking, but he usually likes to have options at quarterback. Keeping Kaepernick on the roster gives him another talented player to groom. We'd guess that Kaepernick sticks, although Christian Ponder's quality performance in the fourth quarter could make the decision tougher. Rookie Jeff Driskel looks headed for the practice squad, if that.

  1. We're glad that Tom Bradyplayed the entire first half for the Patriots, if only to hear Bill Belichick's explanation for it afterward.

"You can't take insurance out on players," Belichick said. "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, but I don't think that really makes you a better player. At some point you have to get out there and play."

The Patriots' starters, including Brady, looked like they needed the work. The team's timing was erratic for much of Brady's six series.

  1. Rams rookie Jared Goff had another night to forget, marked by inaccurate throws and more trouble with turnovers. It was telling that coach Jeff Fisher said after the game that he's leaning toward making Sean Mannion the Rams' backup quarterback to start the year ahead of Goff, with Case Keenum as the starter. Fisher said that without even watching the game film from Thursday. He's seen enough all month to know Goff is not ready.

Goff finished the preseason completing 45 percent of his throws for for 232 yards (4.73 YPA), two touchdowns, two picks, two lost fumbles and too many sacks.

  1. While Goff struggled, Broncos' first-round pick Paxton Lynch continued to show off his considerable skill set. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 214 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in Denver's finale. We'd be surprised if he doesn't start games this season.
  1. The fourth week of the preseason can be useful as a springboard for players needing a confidence boost. After a disastrous preseason before Thursday, the Bears should be thrilled to see receiver Kevin White catch all four targets sent his way for 57 yards. That should give the team more confidence that White can handle his starting role heading into the season.
  1. Ravens second-year receiver Breshad Perriman had a similarly encouraging night. Playing in his first game action as a pro after battling injuries, Perriman caught the first two passes of the game for 25 yards.
  1. If not for Dak Prescott, Titans running back Derrick Henry might just be my Preseason MVP. He has jumped off the screen week after week, finishing out his preseason Thursday with 62 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
  1. It was great to see Cardinals receiver John Brown back on the field in game action after missing nearly the entire month of August with concussion issues.
  1. Seahawks starting running back Thomas Rawls made his preseason debut, carrying the ball two times for seven yards. He looks ready to roll for Week 1, even if he is splitting carries with Christine Michael.
  1. Jets quarterback Bryce Petty didn't get to audition for long for the team's backup job. He hurt his shoulder after six throws and will undergo an MRI after the game. Petty had more yards in six attempts (87) than second-round rookie Christian Hackenberg had in 31 attempts (54). That 1.7 yards per attempt for Hackenberg is a number we've never seen.
  1. Kaepernick's protest of the national anthem was not done in isolation this week. His teammate Eric Reid kneeled next to Kaepernick during the anthem. Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane sat on the bench during the anthem in Oakland.
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