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