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