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