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