Preseason NFL games are glorified dress rehearsals for the regular season, but that doesn’t mean a team can’t send a message during an exhibition, does it?

The New England Patriots handed the Philadelphia Eagles a 37-20 loss at Gillette Stadium in Week 2 of the NFL preseason. Tom Brady saw his first preseason action, playing basically the entire first half against the team that beat the Pats in Super Bowl LII.

And FOX Sports’ Doug Gottlieb believes that was all part of New England sending a message to the league, the Eagles and everyone who thinks there is a rift between Brady and Bill Belichick.

Gottlieb floated his theory while filling in for host Colin Cowherd on “The Herd” last Friday.

Were the Patriots sending a middle finger to everyone with their preseason thumping of the defending champions? It seems doubtful, but after their defense was shredded by Nick Foles in the Super Bowl, perhaps they were excising some pent-up frustration.

New England can send an actual message to the rest of the league during the first two weeks of the regular season. The Pats will open against the Houston Texans, who are being picked by many as a dark horse Super Bowl team. After that, they’ll head to Jacksonville to face a Jaguars team that had them on the ropes in last year’s AFC Championship Game.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images