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