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