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