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