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Broncos Week 7 Talking Points: Injuries to Cleveland’s offensive line could create chances for pass rush

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Broncos Week 7 Talking Points: Injuries to Cleveland’s offensive line could create chances for pass rush

Next up for the reeling Broncos (3-3), losers of three consecutive games and down to their Nos. 4-5 inside linebackers, is a trip to face the similarly reeling Cleveland Browns (3-3), losers of two straight games and potentially down to their No. 3 tailback. Here are three Week 7 storylines:

1. Third down: Bad vs. bad

Something has to give on third down when the Broncos’ offense matches up against the Browns’ defense. The Broncos are last in conversion rate (29.9%) and haven’t exceeded 36% since Week 1 against the New York Giants (46.7%). Cleveland ranks 28th in stopping teams on third down; opponents are clicking at 45.1%. At least against Las Vegas on Sunday, the Broncos had some third-and-manageable situations — they were 2 of 2 when needing three or fewer yards and 2 of 5 when needing 4-7 yards. The Browns’ crutch in their loss to Arizona was allowing third-and-a-mile conversions. The Cardinals converted third-and-19 (touchdown), -and-13 (touchdown) and -10 (34-yard completion) in their 37-14 win.

2. Banged up Browns

The Broncos lost another starter, inside linebacker Alexander Johnson (pectoral), in the Raiders game, but Cleveland has its own major injury issues; it listed 20 players on Monday’s report. Most concerning: Quarterback Baker Mayfield (non-throwing shoulder), running back Nick Chubb (calf), left tackle Jedrick Wills (knee) and right tackle Jack Conklin (knee). Chubb, Wills and Conklin did not play against Arizona and Mayfield was unable to finish the game. Also, the Browns’ leading tackler, rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, is out (ankle). If Cleveland rolls out Blake Hance and James Hudson again at left and right tackle, respectively, the Broncos’ mostly dormant pass rush must take advantage.

3. Stopping giveaway wave

The Broncos have a negative turnover differential (minus-2) after being minus-4 in the loss to Las Vegas. The takeaways that highlighted the 3-0 start (five total) have disappeared; one in the last three games. And the giveaways that were avoided during the 3-0 start (two total) have re-appeared. The Broncos are minus-5 during their three-game losing streak. Most concerning to Fangio should be how the defense isn’t getting around the football to capitalize on a dropped/deflected pass or an unforced effort-type of fumble. The Broncos have forced only three fumbles and no player has more than one interception. Cleveland is also bad in this area. The Browns’ season differential of minus-3 is tied for 23rd and they were minus-3 against Arizona.

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Boston is 4th most congested city in the U.S., drivers lost 78 hours sitting in traffic

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Boston is 4th most congested city in the U.S., drivers lost 78 hours sitting in traffic

Boston traffic has jumped this year as drivers lost 78 hours sitting in gridlock, but congestion around the Hub is still significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

That’s according to the INRIX 2021 Global Traffic Scorecard, which ranked Boston as the fourth most congested city in the U.S. for the second straight year.

Boston before the pandemic in 2019 was ranked as the most congested city in the country, with 101 hours lost. Now as many people still work from home amid the pandemic, the city significantly lags behind those pre-COVID levels.

Traffic is not all the way back from before the pandemic, but it increased by about 63% from 2020 to this year. Drivers in Boston lost 48 hours in 2020, compared to the 78 hours this year.

The region will likely get close to pre-pandemic levels next year, predicted Josh Ostroff of Transportation for Massachusetts.

“If we don’t have congestion going in and out of central Boston, we have a lot of community congestion,” Ostroff said. “People don’t have good alternatives, and we need to provide those alternatives and options for traveling at different times.

“The status quo should not be on the menu,” he added.

The average American driver this year lost 36 hours due to congestion, costing $564 in wasted time. In comparison, drivers in Boston lost 78 hours sitting in traffic, costing $1,223 per driver and $2.3 billion for the city.

Congestion pricing would be a key measure to help alleviate the gridlock, Ostroff said.

“It has been successful in places,” he said. “It places a value on peoples’ time.”

“If we just can remove 10% or 20% of traffic from the road, we can give everyone a better experience,” Ostroff later added, noting that if bus lines become more attractive, “people in cars will also benefit.”

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

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Suspect arrested after attempted shooting in Encore Casino parking garage

A trip to Encore Casino in Everett ended unluckily for Steven Gonzalez, 33, who was arrested after allegedly firing shots at a group of men after a fight.

A State Police spokesperson said that, on Dec. 1, the State Police Gaming Enforcement Unit and Everett Police officers responded to a report of shots fired in Encore’s garage. When they arrived, the group found ballistic evidence, but no victims, leading them to believe that no one was struck by gunfire.

A later investigation revealed the alleged shooter to be Gonzalez, who police say fired multiple rounds at a group of men following an altercation. After he shot at them, Gonzalez fled on foot and was later picked up by someone in a motor vehicle.

The Malden District Court granted a warrant charging Gonzalez with armed assault with intent to murder, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building, carrying a firearm without a license and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Although Gonzalez’s last known address was in Peabody, he was not immediately found in the aftermath of the shooting. A team comprising the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section Troopers, Gaming Enforcement Unit Troopers, members of a U.S. Marshals Task Force and Everett and Salem Officers used intelligence to locate Gonzalez at a Salem apartment. He was arrested there without incident, and transported to the Salem Police Department for booking.

An Encore spokesperson confirmed the incident but declined to comment further pending the ongoing investigation.

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

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Revolution playmaker Carles Gil named MLS MVP

The MLS electorate is diverse by design but it spoke with one voice in favor of New England Revolution midfielder Carles Gil.

The Revs’ star was presented with the Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award on Tuesday afternoon during a ceremony inside the Optum Field Lounge at Gillette Stadium.

The event was hosted by former Revolution striker Taylor Twellman, an ESPN soccer analyst who won the award with New England in 2005, and Revolution owner Robert Kraft, team president Brian Bilello and sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena participated in the presentation.

Gil was accompanied by his wife Maria and the proceedings included video highlights of his big plays from the Revolution’s historic 2021 regular season, which saw the team win its first Supporters Shield with an MLS record 73 points.

The Landon Donovan recipient is selected by an electorate of current MLS players, club technical staff members and the media, and Gil won each faction in a landslide. With 37% of the players’ vote, he was the only one to reach double digits. Gil also got 57.6% of the vote from club officials and 61.6% from the media. Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar, Seattle’s Joao Paulo, Sporting Kansas City’s Daniel Salloi and Valentin Castellanos of New York City FC rounded out the top five.

“The award is voted on by really three groups,” said Bilello. “It is the players, sporting staffs from the different clubs and the media that covers soccer in our country and Carles won all three of those votes running away.

“Whether it is Carles’ peers, whether it is his foes or the media which covers the teams, all of them unanimously chose Carles as their MVP for the season.”

Gil had the numbers to win over the undecideds. The 29-year-old Spaniard led MLS in several significant offensive categories including 18 assists, an MLS record 130 chances created, 25 big chances created, 81 chances created in open play and 49 chances created from set pieces.

The Revolution were 10-2-4 when Gil scored a goal, 22-0-7 when he recorded an assist and 5-0-1 when he had a goal and an assist. Great playmakers need finishers and Gil had his choice of three phenomenal international goal scorers in Adam Buksa (Poland), Gustavo Bou (Argentina) and Tajon Buchanan (Canada).

Buksa led the team with 16 goals in the regular season while Bou was tied for fourth in MLS with 24 combined goals and assists. Buchanan had eight goals and five assists in 27 games. Bou and Buchanan were Gil’s targets in open play while Buksa was his header of choice on set pieces.

Buksa and Bou were the goal scorers in the Revs’ 2-2 shootout loss (5-3) to NYCFC in the MLS Cup Eastern Conference semifinal on Nov. 30 at Gillette Stadium.

“It is a pleasure to play with those types of players and all of them really are incredible to me,” said Gil, who showed emotion during his acceptance speech.

“They make my role easier with the guys we have up top. Adam has a great game in the air and can capitalize on those passes and Gustavo and Tajon are incredible players.”

Arena, who was named MLS Coach of the Year, has a unique perspective on the award as he has coached Gil for parts of three seasons and Donovan over seven campaigns (2008-2014) with the LA Galaxy. While Donovan was a finishing forward and Gil creates scoring chances in the midfield and on set pieces, they were both impact players in their own right according to Arena.

“Landon was goal scorer and Carles is a supplier of goals,” said Arena. “They are both outstanding players and obviously their value to their teams were great and are great. They are different players for sure. But they are two outstanding players for sure.”

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