Maybe the Patriots are still trying to polish him up for a trade, or maybe they want to see how he reacts against a good defense.
But the Patriots put quarterback Ryan Mallett in with the starters in the middle of the first quarter, replacing Tom Brady. He led them to a field goal drive and an early 3-0 lead over the Panthers.
Mallett’s currently competing with Jimmy Garropolo for the backup job, and as the Patriots have carried two quarterbacks in recent seasons, it’s natural to wonder whether they’re willing to keep both.
Brady worked a couple of series and completed 4-of-6 passes, but he also went down after being stepped on by his center, so the Patriots might just be seeing how Mallett reacts to a possible relief situation.
UPDATE 8:30 p.m. ET: Brady returned to the game on the next series, and hit Shane Vereen for a 40-yard touchdown pass, so he’s OK.