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