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Three is the magic number: Looking at Tom Brady’s past performances in third preseason game

08.21.13 at 2:59 pm ET

It’€™s always a good exercise to guess how much Tom Brady and the rest of the starters are going to play in the third preseason game. The third game traditionally is the exclusive domain of the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense — at least for the first half — and history tells us the quarterback will play at least the first two quarters of Thursday’€™s game against the Lions in Detroit.

Brady dismissed talk this week that there’€™s an added emphasis placed on the third game of the preseason — the ‘€œdress rehearsal,’€ if you will — before the real action starts next month.

‘€œI think they’€™re all important,’€ he said when asked about the preseason. ‘€œLast week was important [and] this week is important, because it is the week we have. Nothing’€™s going to simulate what happens on opening day. That has a different feeling than any of these games; that’€™s just the way it is.

‘€œBut this is an important game because it’€™s an important step in our process to see where we’€™re at as a team. We’€™re going on the road, tough environment — we went there a few years ago and didn’€™t do very well, which we’€™ve already heard about that for three days now. So we’€™re going to have to do better than we did the last time.’€

Since 2007 — the last six years — here’€™s a look at how Brady has performed in the third week of the preseason:

2012: Last season, he played 45 snaps against the Buccaneers, going until the end of the third quarter before yielding to Ryan Mallett and finishing 13-for-20 for 127 yards with one touchdown, one interception and two sacks.

2011: Against the Lions in Detroit, Brady played 37 snaps and was lifted at 9:02 of the fourth quarter in favor of Brian Hoyer. Brady was knocked around pretty good in this game against a physical Lions front (he was sacked twice, fumbled once and was hit seven times), and ended up going 12-for-22 for 145 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Going back and reviewing this one, it was a weird game for a couple of reasons. First, Brady threw some bad passes, including one in the dirt to a wide-open Wes Welker. And at the end of the first half with the Patriots driving, there appeared to be a miscommunication between Brady and Chad Ochocinco (remember him?) on a short pass play, and the ball was picked off by defensive back Ricardo Silva. Five plays later, the Lions punched it in for a touchdown.

2010: We have already established 2010 as one of the finest preseasons of his career, and the third preseason game that year (against the visiting Rams) might have been one of the best of his career. He took 30 snaps and was lifted with 12:30 left in the fourth quarter. He finished an astonishing 18-for-22 for 273 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. (That’€™s the deepest he’€™s gone as of late, but that game plan was likely altered by the fact that the Rams went on a 15-play, 76-yard drive that consumed a whopping 9:19 at the start of the second half.)

2009: The Albert Haynesworth game. (Remember him?) The Redskins defensive tackle drove Brady to the turf on the final play of the first half, and while Brady wasn’€™t technically removed from the game, he didn’€™t play at all after the hit. He ended up playing 29 snaps and going 12-for-19 for 150 yards with two touchdowns, no picks, one sack and a QB rating of 122.7.

When Haynesworth joined the Patriots for a brief spell in 2011, he said one of the first conversations he had was with Brady. “The first thing I said was, ‘Hey, Tom, what’€™s up?’ And he was like, ‘Hey, you’€™re not going to be hitting me anymore,’ ” Haynesworth said.

2008: DNP.

2007: No snap count information is available, but Brady was able to step off the plane from Los Angeles — he missed a couple of days of practice following the birth of his son — and be impressive against the Panthers. He led New England to a touchdown on an 80-yard, 18-play first quarter drive that consumed 9:43, and he finished 17-of-22 for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

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