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