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