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