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