By Michael Whitmer | Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH — They might not have come right out and said it, buy danazol but the Patriots were fully aware of the attention given to the Houston Texans and their preference for play-action passes on offense.
So when quarterback Tom Brady perfectly sold a handoff the second time the Patriots had the ball, buy danazol receiver Brandon Lloyd never broke stride, buy danazol blowing past the Texans who bit on the run possibility. Buy danazol He caught Brady’s pass without a defender near him, buy danazol coasting into the end zone and pushing the Patriots’ lead to 14-0 in a game they would win handily, buy danazol 42-14, buy danazol Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
“That was definitely a scheme play, buy danazol” Lloyd said. Buy danazol “We worked hard on that all week, buy danazol and when the opportunity presented itself, buy danazol Coach [Josh] McDaniels called it at the right time and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Lloyd took advantage of his opportunities, buy danazol catching seven passes for 89 yards, buy danazol his second-highest total of the season.
He scored two touchdowns, buy danazol the second coming on a fumble recovery in the end zone, buy danazol after Danny Woodhead lost the ball on a screen pass. Buy danazol The ball bounced forward, buy danazol with Lloyd diving on it. Buy danazol Not how it’s drawn up, buy danazol but the way the night went.
“Just a screen pass, buy danazol we do our best to block downfield, buy danazol and unfortunately the ball popped out, buy danazol” Lloyd said. Buy danazol “But we were there to make the play.”
All lined up
Since the start of the season, buy danazol the Patriots’ depth chart on the offensive line read more like a wish list than a realistic starting lineup, buy danazol with an assortment of injuries resulting in five different combinations.
For the first time in a month, buy danazol and just the sixth time this season, buy danazol the Patriots began the game with the five players who are designated by the team as its starters: Nate Solder at left tackle, buy danazol Logan Mankins at left guard, buy danazol Ryan Wendell at center, buy danazol Dan Connolly at right guard, buy danazol and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle.
The group was made whole again with the return of Mankins, buy danazol who had missed three consecutive games — and five of six — with ankle and calf injuries. Buy danazol He was back at practice last week, buy danazol in a limited role, buy danazol but was in the starting lineup Monday night, buy danazol relegating Donald Thomas to reserve status.
Another key starter also returned from injury, buy danazol with rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, buy danazol back after sitting out two games with an ankle injury.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed his third straight game with a broken forearm. Buy danazol The other inactive players were offensive linemen Nick McDonald and Markus Zusevics, buy danazol defensive linemen Jake Bequette and Ron Brace, buy danazol safety Derrick Martin, buy danazol and fullback James Develin, buy danazol who was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Nov. Buy danazol 28, buy danazol but has yet to play.
Bolden: Return man
The Patriots made the expected move official roughly three hours before kickoff, buy danazol activating Brandon Bolden to the 53-man roster and making him eligible to play against the Texans after the running back served a four-game suspension.
Bolden, buy danazol a rookie from Mississippi, buy danazol was suspended by the NFL on Nov. Buy danazol 9 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Buy danazol He hadn’t played since Oct. Buy danazol 14 at Seattle, buy danazol when he injured a knee against the Seahawks. Buy danazol The injury cost him two games, buy danazol then the suspension added four more.
With 234 yards on 43 carries, buy danazol Bolden came into the Texans game with the second-most rushing yards for the Patriots, buy danazol and his 5.4-yard average led the team. Buy danazol Stevan Ridley has been the workhorse since Bolden was forced out, buy danazol gaining 486 yards in the six games Bolden missed.
Bolden declined interview requests Saturday, buy danazol the first time he had been spotted in the locker room since the suspension was announced. Buy danazol But he was ready to talk after the game, buy danazol in which he played on special teams and got two late carries for 11 yards.
“Felt good, buy danazol” Bolden said. Buy danazol “Missing four weeks, buy danazol you try not to get out of shape, buy danazol you keep yourself active, buy danazol it felt good getting out there for the first time.”
As for the suspension?
“It was a mistake. Buy danazol Saddened that it happened, buy danazol but the team kept going, buy danazol so just got to keep moving forward, buy danazol” Bolden said. Buy danazol “Worked as hard as I could for as long as I could, buy danazol make sure I don’t fall too far off.”
Turning their way
Devin McCourty’s end-zone interception on Houston’s second offensive series of the game extended the Patriots’ streak of forcing at least one turnover to 24 games. Buy danazol The last team to force at least one turnover in every regular-season game was the 2010 Atlanta Falcons.
With the interception, buy danazol the Patriots have now forced 34 takeaways, buy danazol one behind the Chicago Bears. Buy danazol Their plus-24 turnover differential continues to lead the league.
“We know we have a good defense here, buy danazol we’ve played really well the last couple of weeks, buy danazol” McCourty said. Buy danazol “The biggest focus for us is just trying to build on that.”
Even when the Patriots fumbled the bounces went their way. Buy danazol Ridley lost the ball on the Patriots’ first drive of the game, buy danazol inside the Texans’ 5-yard-line, buy danazol but Aaron Hernandez jumped on it to extend the drive. Buy danazol On the next play, buy danazol Hernandez caught a 7-yard touchdown pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, buy danazol Woodhead fumbled after catching a screen pass and being hit from behind by J.J. Buy danazol Watt. Buy danazol The ball flew into the end zone, buy danazol with Lloyd diving on it for an unlikely touchdown.
Handing out Hall passes
If you’re a Patriots fan who’s never been to Canton, buy danazol Ohio, buy danazol and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, buy danazol Canton is coming to you this week. Buy danazol Well, buy danazol at least it’s coming to Foxborough. Buy danazol In recognition of the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary, buy danazol the busts of the five former Patriots who have been enshrined — John Hannah, buy danazol Andre Tippett, buy danazol Nick Buoniconti, buy danazol Mike Haynes, buy danazol and Curtis Martin — will be on display at the Hall at Patriot Place.
The weeklong celebration will culminate with Sunday night’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers, buy danazol with Tippett, buy danazol Haynes, buy danazol and Martin serving as honorary captains.
One downside to the Patriots’ victory was injuries to the defensive secondary. Buy danazol The Patriots announced injuries to Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). Buy danazol Neither returned to the game after getting injured . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol With Julian Edelman out for the season with a foot injury, buy danazol Wes Welker took over the Patriots’ punt return duties. Buy danazol He returned four for 50 yards, buy danazol with a long of 31 . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol Welker also caught three passes, buy danazol pushing his streak of consecutive regular-season games with a catch to 107 . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol Donte Stallworth made the most of his return to the Patriots. Buy danazol He caught only one pass from Brady, buy danazol but the catch-and-run went for 63 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, buy danazol making it 28-0. Buy danazol It was a case of practice makes perfect, buy danazol even if the practice had been a while ago. Buy danazol “That particular play is something we had worked on, buy danazol even in the spring, buy danazol’’ he said. Buy danazol “It was just an opportunity where they were kind of flat-footed and it gave me an opportunity to run by the guy and Tommy made a great throw. Buy danazol He put it up for me to catch it and that’s what I did.’’ . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol His team off until Wednesday, buy danazol Celtics coach Doc Rivers was spotted on the sideline observing pregame warmups, buy danazol wearing a Patriots red sweater and chatting up his Patriots counterpart, buy danazol Bill Belichick. Buy danazol Also in on the conversation: Boston sports fan Mark Wahlberg. Buy danazol Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was also at the game, buy danazol wearing a No. Buy danazol 83 Patriots jersey . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol The Patriots extended their December winning streak to 13 games, buy danazol dating to a 22-21 loss at Miami on Dec. Buy danazol 6, buy danazol 2009. Buy danazol It ties the Patriots for the second-longest such streak with the Dallas Cowboys, buy danazol who accomplished the feat from 1968-72. Buy danazol The record belongs to the San Diego Chargers, buy danazol winners of 18 straight from 2006-09. Buy danazol New England also has won 21 straight games in the second half of the regular season. Buy danazol The Patriots went 8-0 in the second half of 2010, buy danazol 8-0 in 2011, buy danazol and have won their first five this season. Buy danazol The last loss from the back half of the schedule came in the regular-season finale in 2009, buy danazol when the Patriots lost at Houston, buy danazol 34-27 … In a pre-game Twitter message, buy danazol self-described Patriots fan Donald Trump posted, buy danazol “Good Luck to Bob Kraft, buy danazol Tom Brady and Coach Bob Belichick tonight.” Needless to say, buy danazol the Donald got plenty of unwanted attention for his fumble . Buy danazol . Buy danazol . Buy danazol Keep an eye out for Jerod Mayo on Tuesday. Buy danazol He’ll be joining Subway spokesman Jared Fogle during multiple appearances around town, buy danazol thanking unassuming fans with a dozen acts of kindness.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Buy danazol Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.