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