By Michael Whitmer | Globe Staff
FOXBOROUGH — They might not have come right out and said it, vitamin b12 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, vitamin b12 receiver Brandon Lloyd never broke stride, vitamin b12 blowing past the Texans who bit on the run possibility. Vitamin b12 He caught Brady’s pass without a defender near him, vitamin b12 coasting into the end zone and pushing the Patriots’ lead to 14-0 in a game they would win handily, vitamin b12 42-14, vitamin b12 Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
“That was definitely a scheme play, vitamin b12” Lloyd said. Vitamin b12 “We worked hard on that all week, vitamin b12 and when the opportunity presented itself, vitamin b12 Coach [Josh] McDaniels called it at the right time and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Lloyd took advantage of his opportunities, vitamin b12 catching seven passes for 89 yards, vitamin b12 his second-highest total of the season.
He scored two touchdowns, vitamin b12 the second coming on a fumble recovery in the end zone, vitamin b12 after Danny Woodhead lost the ball on a screen pass. Vitamin b12 The ball bounced forward, vitamin b12 with Lloyd diving on it. Vitamin b12 Not how it’s drawn up, vitamin b12 but the way the night went.
“Just a screen pass, vitamin b12 we do our best to block downfield, vitamin b12 and unfortunately the ball popped out, vitamin b12” Lloyd said. Vitamin b12 “But we were there to make the play.”
All lined up
Since the start of the season, vitamin b12 the Patriots’ depth chart on the offensive line read more like a wish list than a realistic starting lineup, vitamin b12 with an assortment of injuries resulting in five different combinations.
For the first time in a month, vitamin b12 and just the sixth time this season, vitamin b12 the Patriots began the game with the five players who are designated by the team as its starters: Nate Solder at left tackle, vitamin b12 Logan Mankins at left guard, vitamin b12 Ryan Wendell at center, vitamin b12 Dan Connolly at right guard, vitamin b12 and Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle.
The group was made whole again with the return of Mankins, vitamin b12 who had missed three consecutive games — and five of six — with ankle and calf injuries. Vitamin b12 He was back at practice last week, vitamin b12 in a limited role, vitamin b12 but was in the starting lineup Monday night, vitamin b12 relegating Donald Thomas to reserve status.
Another key starter also returned from injury, vitamin b12 with rookie defensive end Chandler Jones, vitamin b12 back after sitting out two games with an ankle injury.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed his third straight game with a broken forearm. Vitamin b12 The other inactive players were offensive linemen Nick McDonald and Markus Zusevics, vitamin b12 defensive linemen Jake Bequette and Ron Brace, vitamin b12 safety Derrick Martin, vitamin b12 and fullback James Develin, vitamin b12 who was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Nov. Vitamin b12 28, vitamin b12 but has yet to play.
Bolden: Return man
The Patriots made the expected move official roughly three hours before kickoff, vitamin b12 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, vitamin b12 a rookie from Mississippi, vitamin b12 was suspended by the NFL on Nov. Vitamin b12 9 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Vitamin b12 He hadn’t played since Oct. Vitamin b12 14 at Seattle, vitamin b12 when he injured a knee against the Seahawks. Vitamin b12 The injury cost him two games, vitamin b12 then the suspension added four more.
With 234 yards on 43 carries, vitamin b12 Bolden came into the Texans game with the second-most rushing yards for the Patriots, vitamin b12 and his 5.4-yard average led the team. Vitamin b12 Stevan Ridley has been the workhorse since Bolden was forced out, vitamin b12 gaining 486 yards in the six games Bolden missed.
Bolden declined interview requests Saturday, vitamin b12 the first time he had been spotted in the locker room since the suspension was announced. Vitamin b12 But he was ready to talk after the game, vitamin b12 in which he played on special teams and got two late carries for 11 yards.
“Felt good, vitamin b12” Bolden said. Vitamin b12 “Missing four weeks, vitamin b12 you try not to get out of shape, vitamin b12 you keep yourself active, vitamin b12 it felt good getting out there for the first time.”
As for the suspension?
“It was a mistake. Vitamin b12 Saddened that it happened, vitamin b12 but the team kept going, vitamin b12 so just got to keep moving forward, vitamin b12” Bolden said. Vitamin b12 “Worked as hard as I could for as long as I could, vitamin b12 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. Vitamin b12 The last team to force at least one turnover in every regular-season game was the 2010 Atlanta Falcons.
With the interception, vitamin b12 the Patriots have now forced 34 takeaways, vitamin b12 one behind the Chicago Bears. Vitamin b12 Their plus-24 turnover differential continues to lead the league.
“We know we have a good defense here, vitamin b12 we’ve played really well the last couple of weeks, vitamin b12” McCourty said. Vitamin b12 “The biggest focus for us is just trying to build on that.”
Even when the Patriots fumbled the bounces went their way. Vitamin b12 Ridley lost the ball on the Patriots’ first drive of the game, vitamin b12 inside the Texans’ 5-yard-line, vitamin b12 but Aaron Hernandez jumped on it to extend the drive. Vitamin b12 On the next play, vitamin b12 Hernandez caught a 7-yard touchdown pass.
Early in the fourth quarter, vitamin b12 Woodhead fumbled after catching a screen pass and being hit from behind by J.J. Vitamin b12 Watt. Vitamin b12 The ball flew into the end zone, vitamin b12 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, vitamin b12 Ohio, vitamin b12 and visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, vitamin b12 Canton is coming to you this week. Vitamin b12 Well, vitamin b12 at least it’s coming to Foxborough. Vitamin b12 In recognition of the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary, vitamin b12 the busts of the five former Patriots who have been enshrined — John Hannah, vitamin b12 Andre Tippett, vitamin b12 Nick Buoniconti, vitamin b12 Mike Haynes, vitamin b12 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, vitamin b12 with Tippett, vitamin b12 Haynes, vitamin b12 and Martin serving as honorary captains.
One downside to the Patriots’ victory was injuries to the defensive secondary. Vitamin b12 The Patriots announced injuries to Aqib Talib (hip) and Alfonzo Dennard (hamstring). Vitamin b12 Neither returned to the game after getting injured . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 With Julian Edelman out for the season with a foot injury, vitamin b12 Wes Welker took over the Patriots’ punt return duties. Vitamin b12 He returned four for 50 yards, vitamin b12 with a long of 31 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 Welker also caught three passes, vitamin b12 pushing his streak of consecutive regular-season games with a catch to 107 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 Donte Stallworth made the most of his return to the Patriots. Vitamin b12 He caught only one pass from Brady, vitamin b12 but the catch-and-run went for 63 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, vitamin b12 making it 28-0. Vitamin b12 It was a case of practice makes perfect, vitamin b12 even if the practice had been a while ago. Vitamin b12 “That particular play is something we had worked on, vitamin b12 even in the spring, vitamin b12’’ he said. Vitamin b12 “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. Vitamin b12 He put it up for me to catch it and that’s what I did.’’ . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 His team off until Wednesday, vitamin b12 Celtics coach Doc Rivers was spotted on the sideline observing pregame warmups, vitamin b12 wearing a Patriots red sweater and chatting up his Patriots counterpart, vitamin b12 Bill Belichick. Vitamin b12 Also in on the conversation: Boston sports fan Mark Wahlberg. Vitamin b12 Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was also at the game, vitamin b12 wearing a No. Vitamin b12 83 Patriots jersey . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 The Patriots extended their December winning streak to 13 games, vitamin b12 dating to a 22-21 loss at Miami on Dec. Vitamin b12 6, vitamin b12 2009. Vitamin b12 It ties the Patriots for the second-longest such streak with the Dallas Cowboys, vitamin b12 who accomplished the feat from 1968-72. Vitamin b12 The record belongs to the San Diego Chargers, vitamin b12 winners of 18 straight from 2006-09. Vitamin b12 New England also has won 21 straight games in the second half of the regular season. Vitamin b12 The Patriots went 8-0 in the second half of 2010, vitamin b12 8-0 in 2011, vitamin b12 and have won their first five this season. Vitamin b12 The last loss from the back half of the schedule came in the regular-season finale in 2009, vitamin b12 when the Patriots lost at Houston, vitamin b12 34-27 … In a pre-game Twitter message, vitamin b12 self-described Patriots fan Donald Trump posted, vitamin b12 “Good Luck to Bob Kraft, vitamin b12 Tom Brady and Coach Bob Belichick tonight.” Needless to say, vitamin b12 the Donald got plenty of unwanted attention for his fumble . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 . Vitamin b12 Keep an eye out for Jerod Mayo on Tuesday. Vitamin b12 He’ll be joining Subway spokesman Jared Fogle during multiple appearances around town, vitamin b12 thanking unassuming fans with a dozen acts of kindness.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Vitamin b12 Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.