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