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