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