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