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