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