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