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