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News Blitz 12/30: In the Patriots defense

Tom Brady is the face of the Patriots.

LeGarrette Blount and the offensive line have kept the team running all fall.

Julian Edelman is on the verge of another 100-catch season.

But for the first time in a long time the New England No. 1-ranked scoring defense has put up numbers worthy of balanced billing as Bill Belichick's team heads into the postseason.

The Boston Herald writes that Malcolm Butler – a clear Pro Bowl snub – has keyed the rise of the Patriots defense this season. The Herald Patriots notebook says that Mitchell's absence could be an opportunity for Michael Floyd on Sunday. From 10 to 1, the Patriots are well represented in the Herald's list of the top sports stories of the year. The Herald mailbag says the Patriots "need to recoup at least a first-round pick" in any potential Jimmy Garoppolo trade. The Herald also has an Associated Press story on the Patriots having the "stingiest defense in the NFL."

The Providence Journal writes that rookie Cyrus Jones – who missed Thursday practice with a knee injury – still hopes for another chance to prove his worth as a returner. The ProJo notes that backup passer Matt Moore has stepped in and stepped up for the Dolphins.

ESPNBoston.com relays that the Patriots are looking to become just the seventh team – joining New England's 2007 squad – to go undefeated on the road. ESPNBoston.com breaks down why Julian Edelman arrives at games so early and what he does with all the extra prep time. The site has Floyd crediting rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett with helping him get acclimated to the New England offense. ESPNBoston.com has Martellus Bennett talking about just how much he likes bacon.

WEEI.com says that Dont'a Hightower is the latest member of the Patriots defense to call out the unit's critics, as the defenders continue to show just how defensive they can be. WEEI.com says that guard Joe Thuney is the Patriots rookie of the year. WEEI.com offers up its top 10 Patriots story lines from this season.

CSNNE.com says Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should be choosy when considering potential head-coaching gigs. CSNNE.com has Belichick noting that the NFL's new kickoff rules failed to prevent a concussion last week. CSNNE.com writes about the difference between the Patriots and Dolphins in terms of the safety position.

NFL.com writes that Sunday's game in Miami is important for the Patriots. NFL.com also predicts a 30-19 win for New England against the Dolphins.

The New York Post has former Patriots cornerback and Jets legend Darrelle Revis saying, apparently with a straight face, that he needs to be treated with class by the team, despite his mercenary history and terrible play this season.

The Sun Sentinel has five keys for the Dolphins to upset the Patriots this weekend.

MassLive.com says Danny Amendola is making progress in his return from a an ankle injury that's caused him to miss the last three games. 

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