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Patriots seek to improve kickoff coverage, defense late in halves as AFC title game nears

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    New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater speaks with reporters in the football team's locker room at Gillette Stadium, in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (The Associated Press)

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    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick waves to spectators following an AFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the Houston Texans in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013. The Patriots defeated the Texans 41-28. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (The Associated Press)

It's a bad time for the New England Patriots to be allowing long kickoff returns and giving up points late in the first and second halves.

They did both in their 41-28 playoff win over the Houston Texans. Doing it in the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday could be costly.

In Week 3, the Ravens (12-6) scored 10 points in the last five minutes of their 31-30 win over the Patriots. In Saturday's 38-35 double-overtime divisional victory over the Denver Broncos, Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left in regulation.

Jones also is a threat on kickoffs, returning two for touchdowns and leading the NFL in average yardage.

Coach Bill Belichick says the Patriots (13-4) will stress those problem areas this week.


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