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Broncos guards Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti inching closer to starts vs. Ravens in Week 4

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Broncos guards Quinn Meinerz, Netane Muti inching closer to starts vs. Ravens in Week 4

“The Gut” had to fend off something new in his stomach last Sunday: Butterflies.

“I got in there and I believe it was (tight end Eric) Saubert, he came in there and he goes, ‘Is this your first play?’” Broncos rookie guard Quinn Meinerz, aka “The Gut,” said Thursday at UCHealth Training center when asked about his NFL debut against the Jets.

“And I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m like, ‘We don’t need to make it a big deal. I’m just going to go out there and do my job and just have fun with it.’”

More fun could be just around the bend. Depending on the health of first-team guards Dalton Risner (ankle) and Graham Glasgow (knee), both Meinerz and second-year blocker Netane Muti could get starting nods Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens roll into town for a Week 4 matchup.

The odds of that happening went up a few notches Thursday, given that neither Risner or Glasgow practiced for a second straight day.

“Muti and Meinerz are good players, and if they need to go Sunday, we’ll be ready,” coach Vic Fangio said Thursday of his offensive line injuries. “Continuity is always important, but when injuries happen, you test your depth. And right now, our depth has been doing good.”

Muti, a sixth-round draft pick in 2020 out of Fresno State, could be in line for his second start over the season’s first four weeks, and the third of his career.

The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder played on 43% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps in relief of Glasgow during last weekend’s 26-0 battering of the Jets, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. He’d started for Glasgow at right guard during a Week 2 win at Jacksonville.

“You’ve just got to be ready, even on the sidelines,” Muti said Thursday. “You’ve got to stay ready (to play) the whole time.”

The Broncos collected 146 of their 343 net offensive yards and nine of their 14 first downs last Sunday in the second half. With Risner and Glasgow healthy, they’d forged a comfortable 17-0 lead at the break.

Meinerz made his NFL debut in the third quarter of Week 3 after Risner left, appearing on 37% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps for the afternoon.

“I kind of like his personality,” Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said of the rookie guard, a third-round selection out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. “He’s kind of a tough guy and he runs around and hits people. I think he had some really good plays the other (day) and I’d anticipate he’ll build off that if he’s forced to play this (Sunday).”

Cracked Fangio: “Sometimes, that’s the best way to go get your first action, is cold turkey. Now (Meinerz) knows there’s a possibility he might have to play this week. Hopefully, he’s not getting overwhelmed.”

Or getting butterflies.

“I mean, we’re practicing against a great defense out there every single day, so I felt prepared,” Meinerz recalled. “But it’s a faster game compared to Division III, compared to the Senior Bowl. And a little bit faster than the preseason. So yeah, it’s definitely faster. But I was prepared for it.”

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Patriots pound out 14-10 win at Buffalo, strengthen grip on AFC East

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Patriots pound out 14-10 win at Buffalo, strengthen grip on AFC East

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The easiest way to explain the Patriots has been to point to the past.

To compare this doubted, slow-starting bunch to the 2001 team, a Super Bowl champion backboned by strong defense and a powerful enough run game to support a young quarterback. On Monday, these Pats turned the clock back even further.

Amid blustery conditions, the Patriots set a franchise record with only three pass attempts and beat the Bills 14-10 behind a historic ground-and-pound approach. The Pats rushed for a season-high 222 yards and ran on 32 consecutive offensive snaps spanning the second and fourth quarters. The Patriots became the first team to win while attempting three or fewer passes since 1974.

Defensively, they repelled three straight Buffalo drives that reached the red zone to close out their win. Defending fourth-and-14 at his own 18, Pats defensive back Myles Bryant broke up Josh Allen’s final pass to officially send the Bills packing moments inside the 2-minute warning. Allen finished 15-of-30 for 145 yards and a touchdown.

Buffalo’s two prior drives ended in field goal attempts, a 33-yarder blown wide right and a 35-yarder made late in the third quarter. Swirling gusts were constant inside Highmark Stadium, even reaching 50 mph during play. But nothing could knock the determined Patriots off course.

At 9-4 and winners of a league-high seven straight, the Pats extended their division lead to a game and a half and ensured they will lead the AFC when they return after their upcoming bye week.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones went 2-of-3 for 19 yards passing and took four quarterback sneaks. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Patriots’ one first-half pass attempt marked the fewest by an NFL team since 1978.

The Patriots and Bills both sputtered at the start, the wind affecting a third-down toss to Damien Harris that slipped through his hands and a third-down pass to Buffalo tight end Dawson Knox whose own butterfingers led to another punt.

The Pats failed to bully Buffalo (7-5) on their second series and again rain into a brick wall over three straight carries. Jake Bailey then sailed a 15-yard punt he lost immediately to the wind. Lucky for the Patriots, Bills running back Devin Singletary fumbled a hand-off four plays later, and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy fell on it, killing a drive that started in their territory.

Finally, the bullies broke through.

Taking a third-down toss left, Damien Harris (110 rushing yards) followed picture perfect blocking from his offensive line and cut upfield against a sea of Bills defenders before speeding all alone to a 64-yard touchdown. His score was the Patriots’ longest rushing touchdown in a regular-season game since Curtis Martin in 1997. Facing a relentless wind, the Pats bypassed an point-after try and instead scored a 2-point conversion sending Brandon Bolden on another toss left.

Ahead 8-0, the Pats defense flexed again late in the first quarter and choked out another drive. N’Keal Harry then curiously joined All-Pro Gunner Olszewski back deep for the first punt return of his NFL career. Sure enough, the ball soared toward Harry, took one bounce and glanced off his facemask for a fumble. An alert Bills coverage unit pounced on it at the Patriots’ 14-yard line.

On the very next snap, Allen rifled a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis. While the Pats answered immediately with a 54-yard field goal drive, Buffalo’s run defense stonewalled them through halftime.

Breaking out of the locker room, the Bills booted their third straight punt and again yielded little to the Patriots’ rushing attack. Buoyed by another mistake — Bryant’s unnecessary roughness hit on Allen as he scampered out of bounds — Buffalo tacked on a field goal. And again, the Patriots answered with a field goal drive, this time a 33-yarder from Nick Folk.

In the fourth quarter, the Bills crawled into Patriots territory with a mix of short completions, runs and an Allen scramble. Then another Pats penalty, a horse collar tackle courtesy of Dont’a Hightower, vaulted them inside the 10-yard line. Dusting themselves off, the Patriots stood their ground against a first-down run, then sacked Allen on second-and-goal and forced a hopeless incompletion on third down.

Tyler Bass’ ensuing kick went wide right. After another Patriots punt, the Bills marched back, only to be beaten back again by the wind and the NFL’s best defense.

Here were the best and worst Patriot performances Monday:

Best

Offensive line The Pats piled up 222 rushing yards without any help from their passing game. That’s a huge credit to the big men up front.

Red-zone defense Buffalo finished 1-of-4 inside the red zone.

DT Davon Godchaux He finished with a game-high 10 tackles and helped limit the Bills to four yards per carry.

Worst

WR N’Keal Harry His fumble led to the Bills’ only points through three quarters.

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Guregian: No need to pump the brakes on the Patriots. They’re for real.

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Guregian: No need to pump the brakes on the Patriots. They’re for real.

The game came down to a testament of wills, but more important, coaching decisions.

Playing in crazy elements, with gusting winds and blustery freezing temperatures, surely altered the game plans for the Patriots and Bills in this Monday Night Football showdown of AFC East titans.

That’s why the Patriots having Bill Belichick remains a huge advantage.

He identified the way to win in those elements, and stuck with it no matter the down and distance.

He was going to be conservative with his offense, sink or swim.

That plan didn’t include much of Mac Jones.

Belichick ran, ran, and ran some more. Every down, every possession, he had Jones hand the ball off, and it worked to the tune of a hard-fought 14-10 win in Orchard Park.

If the Patriots had lost, there would inevitably be more questions about Belichick’s strategy, but it’s hard to argue with results.

The Patriots now have seven straight wins, and remain atop the AFC East at 9-4, and also stick as the AFC’s top seed.

After the game, Belichick called the conditions “somewhat challenging.” Naturally, he didn’t make a big deal out of only throwing the ball three times.

“We kind of played the way we felt we needed to win,” said Belichick.

Usually, the Hoodie makes opposing teams play left-handed, taking away their best asset.

Against the Bills, he voluntarily played left-handed, taking Jones out of the mix. And the Patriots still ruled.

Talk about taking the starch out of the Bills, who had to be deflated being crushed in the trenches, and losing their grip in the division so soon.

Plus, they have no idea what to make of Jones, still having to face him again down the road.

Maybe some — including the Bills — will feel Belichick’s strategy was an indictment on the rookie quarterback, who passed just once in the first half, and only twice in the second half.

It appeared more a reflection of Belichick sticking with what he felt was the best way to win. Ditto offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Heavy personal, ground and pound. Nonstop. Forty-six running plays, three passes.

“The coaches have been in a lot of games like this,” said Jones. “Coach Belichick, Coach Josh, they’ve been in every type of element there is. They know what it takes to win.

“So I think we knew if we held onto the ball, we’d be OK.”

Jones, who was experiencing those nasty conditions for the first time, doesn’t have the strongest arm, and in those winds, Belichick didn’t want to take a chance.

The elements spoke to the Hoodie, and he and McDaniels didn’t blink with their intentions to pound the rock, and also, rely on the defense to keep Josh Allen at bay.

Even the strong-armed Allen (15-for-30, 145 yards) had some difficulty rifling some balls through the 40 mph winds.

Turnovers loomed large. Ball security and field position was paramount.

Ultimately, Belichick wasn’t trying to earn style points, he was trying to win a significant football game.

And that’s just what he did.

No need to pump the brakes on these Patriots, even playing old style football. They’re for real. They are legitimately going to make noise down the road.

And that just eats away at Bills head coach Sean McDermott, who refused to give Belichick much credit for the win, or simply being out-coached.

“I don’t think, with all due respect, it’s not a Bill Belichick type thing,” said McDermott, “it’s what are you doing with the opportunities you got.”

Well, the Bills certainly didn’t do much. They were 1-for-4 in the red zone, and largely couldn’t run the ball. As it was, Allen was their leading rusher with 39 yards. The Patriots, meanwhile, ran all day.

They’re built to win in December and January in the outdoors. Between their defense and ability to run, they’re going to be a tough out especially against teams like the Bills, whose defense is built more to stop teams with elite passing games, such as the Chiefs.

Having a lighter, quicker front may be good against Patrick Mahomes & Co. but not against mashers and maulers like the Patriots.

The Bills knew the Patriots were going to run, loading the box with seven and eight guys, and they still ran, and did so effectively. At one point, McDaniels called 32 straight running plays.

Damien Harris gained over 100 yards. Rhamondre Stevenson was just as huge, as the Patriots ran down the Bills’ collective throats for 222 yards.

The Patriots were effective running whether they were going into the wind, or had it at their backs.

This was old-school running as McDaniels made good use of traps with great blocking from the line up front, along with fullback Jakob Johnson and N’Keal Harry at times.

The Patriots had a lead, so there was no real need to put the ball up in Belichick’s mind and gamble.

But that plan also called for the defense to stop the less-conservative Bills, with Allen putting the ball up, largely because Buffalo trailed.

Unlike his offense, Belichick didn’t hold back with his defense, sending an all-out blitz against Allen with a fourth-and-14 from the Patriots 18-yard line with 2:00 to play to help preserve the lead, and the win.

Belichick played his cards right, and in the process, demoralized the Bills, and remain a team no one wants to play, especially outdoors in the elements.

Devin McCourty put it all in perspective, talking about finding ways to win, and doing whatever it takes to accomplish the goal.

“That’s why I love playing here. This team isn’t about one person, it isn’t about egos, it isn’t about this is what we do, so we’re going to do it  . . . it’s about winning,” said McCourty. “We’re going to adjust and find a way to win . . . I think everyone will look at this game and say, they played good defense. But we ran the ball, we broke out a long run when we needed to run the ball and take the clock down . . . this week our offense morphed into a team that was going to run the football and it worked.”

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Boston pension payouts at-a-glance

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Boston pension payouts at-a-glance

The city’s pension payouts list police and fire commanders atop the heap with a total of 470 retirees from various departments pulling down six figures annually. Here are the annual pensions at a glance:

Top 5:

$193,570 William Gross, former police commissioner

$185,416 John McDonough, ex-school superintendent

$181,979 Lisa Holmes, past BPD superintendent

$178,086 William Ridge, past BPD superintendent

$173,278 Joseph Finn, former fire commissioner

Oldest pensions:

1956, Joseph Vogel, firefighter hurt on job, $14,446

1959, Leroy Mahoney, firefighter injured, $20,158

1964, Robert Glynn, police officer injured, $20,083

1970, James Hardaway, firefighter hurt, $19,129

1974, Frank Murano, BFD injured on job, $24,835

Miscellaneous:

$111,126, top-earning retired teacher

$108,890, top fire scuba diver

$52,673 Ray Flynn, former mayor

$33,752, tree climber

$32,562, vehicle impound specialist

$21,216, telephone operator

Go to bostonherald.com for the database listing all 12,718 city retirees.

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