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