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