FOXBOROUGH — Donte’ Stallworth’s return to the Patriots, at least this stint, will be for just one game. The receiver was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with an ankle injury, presumably suffered during Monday night’s 42-14 win over the Texans, a game in which Stallworth caught one pass, a 63-yarder for a touchdown.
With Stallworth now unavailable, it makes room on the roster for receiver Deion Branch, who will return to the Patriots this week, according to a league source. Branch has nine catches in seven games this season, but he was released last month after suffering a hamstring injury.
Stallworth had been signed last Monday, rejoining the organization he spent the 2007 season with. He was also with the Patriots in training camp before being released, but with injuries to Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, the team’s receiving corps had thinned, prompting the move last week to bring Stallworth back.
“Donte’ is always in good shape, works hard, dependable player that got an opportunity, stepped up and made it happen,” coach Bill Belichick said before Tuesday’s roster announcement. “I think that’s kind of what sometimes football is about, but certainly it’s what football at this time of year is about. It’s getting opportunities and taking advantage of them.”
Said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, also before the team announced the Stallworth move: “I don’t want to understate how hard it is to come in off the street and get acclimated to not only what the game plan is, but who the opponent is, how they play. And then, go out there and have to perform on short notice. Credit to him for putting himself in position to be able to go out there and do that.”
The Patriots Tuesday also released tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who did not have a reception in any of the four games he played during his first season with the team. Signed as a free agent in July, Shiancoe was placed on injured reserve at the end of training camp, but with a designation to return. Each team is able to designate just one player on IR for a possible return, and the Patriots used it on Shiancoe, who didn’t play much, even when healthy.
Offensive lineman Tommie Draheim, a member of the practice squad, was also released.
With the return of left guard Logan Mankins, the Patriots’ starting offensive line was intact for the first time in weeks, and just in time to face one of the best pass-rushing defensive fronts in the NFL.
Which isn’t to say that quarterback Tom Brady had a stress-free night during Monday night’s blowout win. He was sacked once, pressured consistently, and knocked down occasionally. But for the all the havoc J.J. Watt and the Texans can create, the numbers added up to a passing grade for the men paid handsomely to give Brady enough time to throw.
“Our guys I thought battled them,” McDaniels said. “Certainly [Watt] made some plays and really got some pressure on us and we could have done some things better, but I thought there were a number of linemen that ended up blocking him throughout the course of the game because he wasn’t always just on the right. He was on the left some, on the right, inside, outside. So, we had a number of different players that had to step in and stand up and block him, and I thought they all gave great effort.”
Belichick, while complimenting the offensive line, also spread the wealth.
“It was a combination of several things. The offensive line did a good job, but also the receivers got open and Tom didn’t have to hold the ball,” Belichick said.
On the fast track
Near the top of the Patriots’ wish list against Houston was getting off to a fast start. Three touchdowns on the first three drives built a 21-0 lead, and while not delivering a knockout blow to the Texans, staggered the visitors after just 20 minutes.
“You always try to get out there and play well early. And against a really good team as we played yesterday, to go out there and put some points on the board in the first quarter, credit goes to the players,” McDaniels said. “They did a great job of executing some of those things and made some critical plays under pressure that helped us get off to a good start and play from ahead.”
More than 250 children affiliated with the Salvation Army and community centers from around Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut were invited to participate in the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation’s 19th Children’s Holiday Party at Gillette Stadium Tuesday night. Among the Patriots in attendance were Wes Welker, Kyle Arrington, Donald Thomas, Daniel Fells, and Matthew Slater.
“Tis the season. I’m going to grow it white for the next game,” said Arrington, who has grown quite an impressive Santa beard recently. “We’re having a blast. To be able to give back, especially during the holiday season, it means a lot.”
The yards allowed might not coincide, but the Patriots’ defense is on a streak where it’s given up fewer points in five straight games: 31 to Buffalo, 24 to Indianapolis, 19 to the Jets, 16 to Miami, and now 14 to Houston . . . In addition to the children’s holiday party, linebacker Jerod Mayo spent part of Tuesday visiting multiple locations across town and providing random acts of kindness to unsuspecting strangers. Mayo, joined by Subway endorser Jared Fogle, bought groceries, paid toll fares, and delivered sandwiches to a local fire station . . . Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillipsposted the following message Tuesday on Twitter, where he goes by @sonofbum: “Today 11 wins feels like 2 and 2 losses feels like 11 — Felt the same after GB but team responded with 6 in a row – We will be back!”