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