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