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