By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The preseason is over! The preseason is over! The preseason is over!

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The end of the preseason — and not a meaningless touchdown in a fourth preseason game — is really the only thing worth celebrating today. Preseason is most certainly necessary, but it’s also a bit excruciating, as it more often resembles football-like activity more than it resembles football.

Yet on Thursday night in New Jersey, we at least got to see Tom Brady play the game, a sight which added some legitimacy to the whole ordeal.

So, bolstered by the Brady appearance, and in celebration of the end of the preseason, let’s dive headfirst into some leftover thoughts to carry us over for the next nine days.

–The No. 1 takeaway from the game is simple: Barkevious Mingo. (Barkeeeeevious. That’s fun to say.) I’ve never seen anybody look any happier to no longer be in Cleveland than Barkevious. He ran like a bat out of hell and stood out as the most athletic guy on the field.

Granted, he was mostly going against and playing among the backups, but that looked like the guy with the type of athleticism that warranted being taken No. 6 overall in the 2013 draft. It’s not out of the realm of realism to think Bill Belichick will be able to get the most out of this player, as he did it just last year with fellow Cleveland escapee Jabaal Sheard.

–There are things you don’t often see. One such thing is a player like Mingo chasing down the quarterback for a strip sack that gets negated by a penalty elsewhere on the play, only for that same player to force a fumble on the very next play.

That was a remarkable stretch, but it wasn’t even Mingo’s most impressive feat. His best play came late in the second quarter, when he simply overpowered offensive lineman Bobby Hart, who had no choice but to hold Mingo. But Mingo worked through the hold to grab running back Paul Perkins and haul him down for a 3-yard loss.


–I hope all you worry warts weren’t too rattled to catch some shut-eye after the game, after being forced to see the horror of Tom Brady being thrust into the unfamiliar territory of a football game. I don’t understand why everybody gets so scared around here whenever Tom Brady plays football. He’ll be in late in a game and people will be writhing in pain screaming, “GET HIM OUT OF THERE!”

Look, I get it. He’s the franchise. Football is dangerous. But the man has been injured once. It came in the first quarter of a Week 1 game. Is it more dangerous being on the field than it is to not be on the field? Yeah, obviously. But the man plays football for a living. Let the guy play football.

I don’t want to go full “It’s dangerous to sit on your couch” like my man Roger Goodell, but come on, people. If you play or coach like you’re afraid of getting hurt, then you’ll probably end up getting hurt.

Live life. Stuff happens. Get out there. C’est la vie.

Grow up, Peter Pan.

–Plus, if you’re terrified of injuries, what good does it do to play Jacoby Brissett (aka the team’s only backup QB) for a full 60 minutes? And for that matter, what good would it do to throw Jimmy Garoppolo out there and face the terrifying injury risk that everyone’s so scared of?

I also heard multiple callers to The Sports Hub (admittedly not the greatest gauge of the temperature of fans) bring up the Teddy Bridgewater non-contact injury as a reason not to play Brady.

These people make no sense.

–You know what else has been grinding my gears? I’ll tell you what’s been grinding my gears. The whole narrative about Belichick fumbling the QB situation, or Brady not doing enough to help Garoppolo, and the like.

This is the NFL, people.

If Jimmy’s feelings are hurt by Tom Brady playing in a preseason game, then Jimmy doesn’t belong in the NFL.

If Jimmy’s confidence is shattered from a couple of bad drives in August, then Jimmy doesn’t belong in the NFL.

I’m not saying either of those things is the case, but the way people are arguing about the use and treatment of Garoppolo this summer, you’d think it’s supposed to be Belichick’s job to be holding the hand of the 24-year-old adult man all summer long. Do people want Bill to pat this adult man on the head and tell him everything is going to be OK? Is that what’s needed for Garoppolo to feel good about his chances in the NFL?

It’s the NFL. Perform or you’re done. Period. If Garoppolo isn’t ready or if Garoppolo fails, that’s on Garoppolo.

–Chris Long has looked really good all summer, but he finally showed up on the stat sheet after a two-week absence. Granted, he’s on the stat sheet only with one tackle, but somehow despite three solid showings, he only had one tackle. Now he has two. But his impact has been noticeable. I said it two weeks ago, but the guy has looked hyper-focused all preseason. He tipped the Cam Newton pass that led to an interception last week, and he was in the backfield all night vs. the Giants. He’s done a lot of dirty work that hasn’t necessarily resulted in stats, but he looks to be on the path for the career revival.

–Malcolm Butler covered Victor Cruz step-for-step on the first play of the game, which was good work, but a play later in the game stood out to me. It came in the second Giants offensive series, when Butler covered rookie receiver Sterling Shepard downfield. Butler had the coverage on the play, and after Ryan Nassib’s pass hit the turf, Butler was in Shepard’s face, jawing back and forth.

Butler may be the team’s No. 1 cornerback, and he may be the guy who made the defining play of a Super Bowl victory, but he still carries himself like the undrafted rookie out of West Alabama. He is a blast to watch, and that’s partly because he seems like such a pain in the ass to play against.

–Here’s that Butler coverage on Cruz, by the by.

Malcolm Butler breaks up a pass intended for Victor Cruz. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Malcolm Butler breaks up a pass intended for Victor Cruz. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

–As the first half progressed, I think we saw why Tom Brady found value in playing in the game. His timing was off early. He was unsure in the pocket. He took some hits. He telegraphed that interception. He didn’t look great.

After a few series, he got into a rhythm, made a couple of beautiful passes to Julian Edelman and D.J. Foster, showed some confidence in escaping pressure and delivering passes on the run, and ultimately left MetLife Stadium feeling better about Week 5 than he might have when he entered.

The thing that might have gone overlooked in all of the “WHYYYYY IS TOM BRADY PLAYING???!!!!” hysteria is the fact that quarterbacks don’t get hit in practice. Ever. If a defender gets near them, it’s two-hand touch and the play is dead. It’s not a great simulation for a game, where the QB can try to absorb that hit and stay up, or break free from a grasp.

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I’ll also say this again: The last time Brady went a whole preseason without playing was 2008. He went out and got hurt while standing in the pocket in the first quarter of Week 1. If you don’t think that’s something that’s on his mind every August, then I don’t know what to tell you.

The guy wanted live game reps because even for a 17-year vet, a full nine-month absence from getting hit is a recipe for some rust.

Plus, this guy is, you know, the team’s starting quarterback for 75 percent of the season and the postseason. But by all means, continue labeling him “selfish” for … wanting to play football.

–Jamie Collins is a freak.

As you were.

–If you want to feel good about Chris Hogan, look only at his simple yet all-too-rare awareness to come back to the football when Tom Brady was scrambling to the right.

It came on a third-and-7 when the Patriots were backed up on their own 9-yard line. Hogan was up the right sideline, saw Brady on the run, and sprinted back toward the line of scrimmage. Brady delivered a bullet, Hogan made a nice catch, and the chains were moved. The drive ended in a punt, but it was downed on the Giants’ 4-yard line. That flip of the field doesn’t happen without that Brady-Hogan connection. (Yet another reason for Brady to play in the preseason game.)

–Nate Solder seems like he’s OK, and the injury that took him out of the game seemed to be minor. But it mustn’t have been a very exciting few minutes for Jim Garoppolo as he pondered the thought of starting his first NFL games with Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon as his tackles.

–I’ll probably cover this extensively in picks columns this year, but as a forewarning, get used to me (and hopefully everybody else) referring to Ben McAdoo as a guy who looks like he eats dinner at TGI Friday’s every night and lives for 2-for-1 app deals.

Ben McAdoo (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ben McAdoo (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I have no idea if the man can coach a football team, but he looks like he enjoys a mean potato skin or two on the reg. If it weren’t for supporting Josh Brown as a father and as a man, Ben’s someone who would likely rank pretty high on my power rankings of coaches to have a beer with.

–Martellus Bennett stunk out loud, and I understand that’s going to draw some attention. But to me, he looked like a nine-year vet wondering why he’s playing in a fourth preseason game. The drop, the fumble, the three yards on two receptions, none of it looked good at all. But I also wouldn’t be overly concerned about his performance in a preseason game.

Now, might that attitude be unappreciated in the coach’s office? Maybe. But we can’t and won’t know that. We’ll find out if/when Bennett makes the final roster and plays in the actual games that matter. But for right now, I wouldn’t put too much stock either way in that showing by Bennett.

–Not sure if you caught it on the broadcast or not, but Bill Belichick absolutely gave the cold shoulder to John Mara. During the game, the broadcast showed Robert Kraft chatting up Mara, before Belichick jogged over to give a handshake and a semi-hug to Kraft. He did so while angling his back to Mara.

Based on Mara’s support or Goodell during “DeflateGate,” I found this to not be a coincidence.

It’s also interesting because Belichick presumably had a good relationship with John’s father from their days together with the Giants. But John looked like persona non grata on Thursday night.

(It’s possible that I’m making entirely too much about a sideline encounter, but come on. Don’t be boring.)

–Congratulations to A.J. Derby for getting the Sudfeld Memorial Trophy for being the most outstanding preseason tight end on the Patriots roster. I do think Derby’s done enough to make the team, and certainly, leaping over a human is a great way to keep me entertained late in a preseason game. But it’s worth offering thanks again to Zach Sudfeld for serving as our cautionary tale every year to not get too carried away with preseason performances.

–What was up with Mark Herzlich going full Rodney Harrison on poor Devin Lucien? If you don’t know — because who does? — Lucien is a seventh-round draft pick out of Arizona State, where he went over 1,000 yards receiving and scored eight touchdowns last year. He was likely a long shot to make the roster, but the Patriots seem to like him, and maybe he had a chance to end up on the practice squad.

But that’s going to be hard with a busted back, which came courtesy of a late spear from Herzlich.

I’ve always liked Herzlich. His story at Boston College of overcoming Ewing’s sarcoma to return to the field was one of the all-too-rare positive sports stories. But now he’s out there spearing people in the back and the head, and he’s staying notably silent on Josh Brown despite strong prior claims of being someone who will say something if a domestic abuser were ever on his team. Rough couple of weeks for Mark, I guess.

–Cyrus Jones’ preseason: seven punt returns for 75 yards. By my math, that’s a 10.7-yard average. Small sample, of course, but a 10.7-yard punt return average would have ranked fourth in the NFL last year.

Useful, that.

–Time need not be spent on Jacoby Brissett’s stats, because the numbers against second- and third-stringers don’t matter too much. But physically, Brissett does not look like a rookie. He looks big and he looks strong. He also looks smart. It’s way, way too early to try to say “he looks like a soon-to-be real NFL quarterback,” but so far, he looks like a very smart pick for the Patriots in a QB-starved league.

–I sat in a courtroom in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and listened intently as a bunch of high-ranking judges pondered the concept of Tom Brady autographing merchandise serving as “inducements” to ball boys to illegally deflate footballs. I wonder what those dorks were thinking when they saw Odell Beckham Jr. signing his jersey for Brady. Is Brady now going to deflate footballs for Beckham?

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady talks with New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham following their preseason game at MetLife Stadium. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Odell Beckham Jr. signs his jersey for Tom Brady. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Hmm … come to think of it, Beckham does like making those one-handed catches … and that would be so much easier if the the footballs had 0.2 PSI lower pressure.

You know what? There’d never be this autograph/merchandise exchange if there weren’t some quid pro quo going on. It’s best to just extend Brady’s suspension another month and ban Beckham for four games too. There’s no other explanation for this brazen showing of bribery between two stars.

–All right, folks. It’s time for real football. The next time we’ll see it, Chandler Jones will be on the field looking to make the Patriots deeply regret that trade. Jimmy Garoppolo will go from a football boy to a football man. Malcolm Butler will be back on the field where he made the play that rewrote football history.

It ought to be pretty good.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.