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Manning solid, Brady sits in final exhibition game

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Eli Manning appears ready for the regular season. Tom Brady had better be.

Manning had his third straight solid exhibition tune-up while Brady watched from the sidelines wearing a ball cap as the New England Patriots beat the New York Giants, 27-20, Thursday night.

Now they'll get ready for their Sept. 9 openers -- the Patriots at the New York Jets and the Giants at the Dallas Cowboys.

None of the Patriots' first-stringers played, an indication perhaps that coach Bill Belichick thinks they're ready for the real thing?

"Whether they are or they aren't, we're going to find out," third-string quarterback Vinny Testaverde said.

Manning led a 16-play touchdown drive on the opening series, then went to the bench with most of the Giants' other starters.

"I feel like I'm ready. I'm making smarter decisions," he said. "The defenses are going to be more complex (in the regular season), but I think we've been improving, too."

Regulars rarely play much in the final exhibition game, but Belichick went to the extreme, using only 42 of his 75 players.

"It was good because we really played the same group of people the entire game and it was against different players," he said. "That will be part of the evaluation."

Last Friday, Brady was outstanding in a 24-7 win at Carolina. He left that game midway through the third quarter after completing 17 of 22 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns.

The game was important to the Giants' two place-kickers, who both made their only field goal attempts. Veteran Lawrence Tynes connected on a 43-yarder, while rookie free agent Josh Huston made a 33-yarder as each tried to stake claim to the job.

"Both were better than a week ago," coach Tom Coughlin said. "We'll make a decision based on the facts."

The Giants (1-3) got the ball first and scored on a 1-yard run by Brandon Jacobs, the starter at running back following Tiki Barber's retirement. Manning was 5-for-8 for 58 yards on the drive, including four first-down passes to Jeremy Shockey.

In his previous two games, Manning was 27-for-38 for 260 yards. He finished the exhibition schedule without an interception.

Current second-stringer Jared Lorenzen had a much tougher night. He was sacked seven times and went 10-for-16 for 53 yards before Tim Hasselbeck took over with 15 minutes left.

"I am concerned" about the backup quarterback situation, Coughlin said. "I thought we had some really simple protection errors with the second group, also."

Matt Cassell started for the Patriots (2-2) and led two scoring drives, ending in Stephen Gostkowski's 37-yard field goal and Heath Evans' 1-yard touchdown run that gave them the lead for good, 10-7.

"It's hard to say you're not looking forward to the Jets," Evans said, "but this is a necessary evil to perform better."

Cassell went 10-for-14 for 99 yards on three series before being replaced by the 43-year-old Testaverde. Cassell has thrown just 32 passes in two pro seasons after throwing 33 in four years at Southern California.

"Getting another start under my belt, even in preseason, is good," he said. "If, God forbid, something were to happen (to Brady) I'd be ready to go."

Testaverde completed three passes of at least 15 yards on the opening drive of the second half, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Quinton Smith. Testaverde was replaced by free agent Matt Gutierrez after going 7-for-11 for 99 yards with one interception. Gostkowski kicked a 23-yard field goal on Gutierrez's second series.

With the score 20-13, Gutierrez threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Bam Childress with 2:54 left before Ryan Grant scored on a 1-yard run with 49 seconds to go.

Several key players missed the game, and it wasn't because they were ready for the regular season.

For the Giants, defensive end Michael Strahan and wide receiver Plaxico Burress missed the entire exhibition season. Strahan has stayed out of camp and is contemplating retirement. Burress has a back injury after missing the first three games recovering from ankle problems.

"We'll be better when No. 17 (Burress) and, hopefully, Michael come back," Shockey said. "The dynamic duo."

For the Patriots, wide receiver Randy Moss and cornerback Asante Samuel remained off the field. Both missed all four games. Moss hurt his upper left leg, and Samuel, who signed a one-year contract Tuesday after holding out, was given a roster exemption.

Notes:LB Oscar Lua, the Patriots seventh-round draft pick, limped off with a leg injury on the first series and didn't return. ... The Giants' seventh-round pick, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, led them with 46 yards on six carries.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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