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Once shaky Pats defense turns stingy for playoffs

Updated: December 31, 2012, 7:14 PM ET
Associated Press

(Eds: Updates with details, quotes. With AP Photos.)

By HOWARD ULMAN

AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A New England Patriots defense that gave up so many big plays is finally making them.

Just in time.

The Patriots began the regular season with an influx of rookies they hoped could improve one of the worst teams at allowing yards last season. They ended it with their first shutout in three years and a boost of confidence heading into the playoffs.

"We've ...

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