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