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