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