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Patriots defense revels in shutout of Texans

September 23, 2016 GMT

FOXBORO — Pitchers usually know by the sixth or seventh inning when they are on the verge of doing something special.

The Patriots defense felt that same buzz entering the fourth quarter last night.

After watching Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill go through them like a hot knife through butter the opening two weeks, the defensive unit was not going to let Brock Osweiler have his way. They kept the Houston Texans in check over the final 15 minutes to record their first shutout since 2012 with a 27-0 victory at Gillette Stadium.

“Oh yeah, that’s something that’s not done a lot, getting those shutouts,” said defensive back Duron Harmon. “We really pride ourselves on being a good defense and learning from our mistakes. We saw that goose egg out there and everyone wanted it.”

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Defensive tackle Alan Branch knows just how difficult it is to record a shutout. A 10-year veteran of 120 games, Branch had only been part of two shutouts prior to last night.

“First and foremost, you want to get a win,” Branch said. “But if you get a chance for a shutout, you want it because this is a hard league to shut down an opponent. The league is built for offenses to score, so when you get a chance to shut out a team, it’s special.”

The defense struggled to get off the field in the second half against the Cardinals, giving up two touchdowns and escaped when Chandler Catanzaro missed a potential game-winning 47-yard field goal. Last week, the Dolphins amassed 269 yards of total offense over the final 20 minutes and nearly erased a 31-3 deficit.

“We didn’t finish the second half against the Dolphins the way we wanted to,” said Harmon, who preserved last week’s win with an end zone interception. “That was the focus all week long.”

The Texans spent heavily in the offseason, dropping $72 million onto Osweiler’s lap, signing running back Lamar Miller and drafting wide receiver Will Fuller to go along with star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. That group amassed a mere 153 yards of offense in the second half and never came close to the end zone in suffering its first shutout since the Jaguars defeated the Texans, 27-0, in December 2003.

“We wanted to go out there and execute because the second half wasn’t so good last week,” said defensive end Chris Long. “As much as you want to move forward, you want to get rid of that stigma that we were feeling.”

The Patriots did just that last night.

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