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