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