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To defend their Super Bowl title, the Ravens have to do one deceptively simple thing: win.
How can the Ravens successfully defend their Super Bowl championship this season? It's easy: win games.
Yes, but those two simple words require many complex things coming together correctly. Saying "win games" is a lot more difficult than the act.
The Ravens lost just two games of their first 11 last season, with many of their wins coming in close games. Their ability to stand their ground on defense, or, conversely, come up with big plays on offense in the fourth quarter, led to a string of wins that laid the groundwork for their playoff berth later on.
Despite the Ravens defense giving up an uncharacteristic number of yards to opposing offenses, particularly against the run, they still managed wins over teams like the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the Ravens in a time of transition, it's smart that they keep last year in mind. They weren't perfect—the defense struggled and quarterback Joe Flacco was again inconsistent on a weekly basis, with passing yardage totals varying wildly (337 in Week 4, 165 in Week 5, 230 in Week 6, 121 in Week 7, for example)—but yet, they didn't have to be. And they don't need to play flawless football this year in order to add up wins.
Flawless football is a goal for the Ravens and for every team, but none truly reach it. There are too many moving parts—a team's own players, its opponents, coaching decisions, injuries, the clock, the officials, the weather—for a team to get any and everything right every time. It's simply about making the better decisions and executing better than the opponent, in the moment, and having more of those moments than the other team.
The Ravens know how to do this; we saw it in their highly flawed and highly successful 2012-2013 season.
After all, the Ravens roster may be different, but their overall philosophy is unchanged. With a younger defense, their troubles stopping the run from last year should be improved. Their many changes in the secondary are a concern, but if they can be more effective bringing pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the cornerbacks and safeties will have a little less to worry about.
Ray Rice will continue to run the ball well, and the Ravens' overall run game should be even more interesting and dangerous now that his No. 2, Bernard Pierce, has shown quite a bit of talent in his own right. The Ravens have weathered Flacco's ups and downs for the entirety of his career and haven't missed the postseason once, despite near-constant questions regarding his receiving corps.
Receiver Jacoby Jones is a true weapon when used as a kick and punt returner and almost single-handedly lifted the Ravens out of the special teams basement last year. Tight end Dennis Pitta could be the one to fill the void left by the trade of wide receiver Anquan Boldin to such success that it won't completely matter who the No. 2 receiver is on the depth chart.
While the focus has been so heavily on the players the Ravens lost and the ones they gained in return, the things that haven't changed will help them win games too. Winning is how the Ravens can best defend their Super Bowl title—it won't be easy, but it's never been. However, they've spent the previous five seasons doing more winning than losing, and there's no reason to think they cannot do the same this year.