The Globe's Bert Breer had it right: The Patriots did have a good reason to play Tom Brady in the second half.
The Patriots already have a history of playing Brady extensively in Week 17 games that didn't mean much to them. The Patriots, though, yanked Brady late in the first half, and it looked like they'd already decided to fold the tents and take it to the playoffs.
Brady then reappeared and played most of the second half -- something that has left 98.5 radio personality Gary Tanguay, among others, dumbfounded with disbelief. Brady even endured a couple of big hits and threw an interception before Hoyer once again replaced him for the final drive of the game.
"We didn’t really have anything set," Belichick said when asked about his roster management. "We just went out and played."
Belichick is no idiot. He's won three Super Bowls because he has a reason for what he's doing. There's one pretty good reason to keep Brady in the game as long as possible: Brady had to start to figure out how he was going to run his offense without having Welker as his safety valve. Welker almost certainly is done for the season, and Brady will have only three practices this week to start getting used to playing without Welker.
Yes, Brady already has played without Welker -- but one of those games was his Week 2 disaster against the Jets, a game in which Brady completed 48.9 percent of his passes and compiled a season-worst quarterback rating of just 53.1.
Injuries are freak things. They happen.
If the Patriots are going to advance deep into the playoffs without Welker, Brady has to figure out how to operate the offense without his most prolific wide receiver. Sunday's second half gave him a chance to start that process.