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