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