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