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