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