The Patriots take on the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl this Sunday. The city of Atlanta is hosting the big game. Boston Globe NFL reporter Ben Volin is in Atlanta, covering the Super Bowl. He spoke with WGBH All Things Considered anchor Barbara Howard about what fans can expect. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Barbara Howard: People were a little bit pessimistic about the Patriots chances of getting this far. They finished up the regular season at 11-5, a rather pedestrian record for them. And they faced some tough match-ups earlier in the playoffs, against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. But now, here we are — the Patriots have made it to the Super Bowl. What do you think have been the keys to their success?
Ben Volin: It's pretty unbelievable. As you said, this was not a team that many of us expected to be here, playing at the Super Bowl. I certainly thought they would lose on the road in Kansas City. But honestly, the key for them was getting that bye week after the regular season. They had an extra week to prepare. The Patriots were home resting their bodies and getting their minds right, and that's really important after a 16 game schedule, especially with a veteran-laden team like the Patriots. This is a team that has really needed a break, and they hit the refresh button. And I think you have to give a lot of credit to Josh McDaniels, the offensive coordinator. He also did a great job in that bye week of figuring out how to best use the personnel that they have on offense, and you've seen a completely different team the last two games. They were definitely up and down and a little inconsistent this year, but they're certainly firing on all cylinders now in the playoffs.
Howard: How does the Patriots' offense match up against the Rams' defense?
Volin: I do think it's going to be a good match-up for the Patriots. I don't think they're going to have too many problems moving the ball up and down the field and scoring some points on the Rams, obviously with the way Tom Brady has been playing. And really, it's his offensive line. Brady has not been touched in this postseason run — zero sacks. I don't think he has any quarterback hits, even. So they’ve done a great job protecting him up front. Brady and Julian Edelman have been great, and I think it's going to be another game where the Patriots' run game is going to be a big part of the offense. The Patriots have become more of a smash-mouth football team, and the Rams are running one of these defenses, kind of like the Chiefs, where they're undersized, and they’re really fast. So I would expect the Patriots to bring out their fullback James Develin, you'll see a lot of run blocking from Rob Gronkowski, and another big day from the offensive line. And I would think Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead, the two running backs, are going to get a lot of carries. I definitely like this match-up for the Patriots' offense.
Howard: How about the Pats' defense? Can it contain the Rams' offense?
Volin: It won't be easy. The Rams finished the year with the No. two offense, both in yards and points. And their young coach Sean McVay, he's a bit of a young genius. He's really turned that team around in two years, and turned them into a really high-flying offense. The Rams, like the Patriots, run the ball really well, with their excellent running back Todd Gurley. And Jared Goff, the young quarterback and the former No. one overall pick, has been great this year at making all the throws and showing a lot of poise. This was a Rams team that was down 13-0 on the road in the NFC Championship Game, and came all the way back to win. Even though they're a young team, they’re a poised team. Now the Patriots' defense has been playing a lot better, especially in the playoffs. They did a pretty good job overall against the Chiefs. They definitely shut down the L.A. Chargers before that. But the Rams offer another very tough task on Sunday, and frankly, I think this game is going to be a shootout. I think there are going to a lot of points scored by both teams, and it might be a case where the team that has the ball last is the one that ends up winning.
Howard: Of course the Patriots and the Rams have met before in the Super Bowl. Seventeen years ago, Tom Brady led the Pats to their first Super Bowl win, beating the Rams. A lot has changed since then. So what do you think is going to happen on Sunday? Do the Patriots win their sixth Super Bowl, or do you think it's going to be a repeat of last year, when they lost the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles?
Volin: Well I'll tell you what — I'm done betting against Tom Brady. I've learned my lesson on that. I just don't know how you pick against the Patriots at this point. The score I'm going with is 40-37. The Patriots usually prevail in these games, and I've learned my lesson. I'm not picking against them.
Howard: That's Ben Volin, an NFL reporter for The Boston Globe. He is in Atlanta, which is hosting Sunday's Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. This is WGBH’s All Things Considered.