Pats drop final preseason game, Goodell skipping season opener

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP/WPRI) — The New England Patriots are on cloud nine, even after dropping their final preseason game of the early season.

Chris Boswell kicked four field goals and the New York Giants finished off the preseason with a 12-9 victory Thursday over the New England Patriots, who had already won a much larger victory earlier in the day.

A federal judge vacated the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady, clearing the Patriots star quarterback for the regular-season opener and beyond. Brady was among the 34 players who didn’t play against the Giants, who rested quarterback Eli Manning and most other starters as well.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, after the league’s monumental failure and mishandling of the case, will not be at Gillette Stadium for the Patriots season opener against the Steelers on Thursday, Sept. 10 when the team will be presented with another championship banner.

A spokesman said Goodell will not be there because he does not want to be the main focus and a distraction to the on-field celebrations.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski also provided all of the scoring for New England, which left the offense in the hands of third-stringer Ryan Lindley.

The focus was still on Brady, whose whereabouts were kept top-secret by the Patriots.

“I’ll just talk about the game — any questions about the game,” New England coach Bill Belichick said, cutting off the first Brady-related question.

There wasn’t much of a game to talk about, but New England fans continued celebrating until a downpour late in the fourth quarter.

Brady was well represented in the stands. During one early stoppage, The Who’s “I’m Free” blared from the PA system as fans wearing “Free Brady” T-shirts cheered.

One fan even suggested U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, whose ruling led to New England’s collective vindication celebration, should consider higher aspirations.

The “Judge Berman for President 2016” sign got the most cheers of the many shown on the giant monitors.

Brady’s teammates, like their coach, had little to say about the good news.

“Hey man, I have enough on my plate,” recently signed receiver Reggie Wayne said. “I’m excited he’s available, but Reggie’s got to take care of what Reggie’s got to take care of — to get better.”

HOW’D I DO?

Lindley’s future also depends on what the Patriots want to do with the final roster cuts. Brady is clear for now and Jimmy Garoppolo sat out Thursday after playing most of the preseason.

Lindley completed 22 of 45 for 253 yards with one interception and a late fumble.

“I knew I’d get 60 minutes of good football,” Lindley said. “It was up to me to see how good that would be, and I feel comfortable with the way I played. Hopefully somebody will feel the same way about it.”

NO ELI

Manning dressed, but did not leave the sideline. Backup quarterback Ryan Nassib played all but the final few minutes for New York and was 16 for 32 for 193 yards and no interceptions.

WELCOME BACK

Giants running back Andre Williams had only seven carries for 11 yards in the first three preseason games, but had eight for 28 in the first half on Thursday and didn’t play again. The Boston College graduate and 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist led the Giants in rushing last season with 721 yards and seven touchdowns.

Teammate Shane Vereen carried for 3 yards early in the first quarter and received polite applause from the Patriots fans. He part of New England’s Super Bowl-winning team last season, catching a team-high 11 passes for 64 yards in the victory over Seattle.

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