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