There might be no greater statement about the improvement of the Saints defense than the fact Sean Payton can win the toss, and elect to not send Drew Brees immediately on the field.
According to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, last week against the Bears was just the fourth time in 41 opportunities that the Saints won the toss and deferred to the second half.
The other three times were on the road where weather was a factor, at Washington and Chicago in 2008 and 2010 in San Francisco. But conditions were perfect last Sunday, and Payton said that was part of the reasoning.
“That sun was sitting hard to our left into the field,” Payton said on his radio show. “So if you’re a receiver and you’re looking back into that sun it was going to be really challenging. We felt by the second quarter that was going to be diminished some. With the direction we went, the eyes of our receivers were going to look into a clear blue sky, not the sun. Plus, there was a slight wind advantage [for us in the first quarter].”
Of course, there was also some strategy, since defensive coordinator Rob Ryan threw some new blitzes at the Bears he hadn’t used, forcing a three-and-out and a turnover on the first two Bears possessions.
“I have no clue why we deferred but I know this: He doesn’t do anything without a reason,” punter Thomas Morstead said of Payton.
By the time the Saints closed the first half and opened the second half with scoring drives, they were comfortably ahead 23-7, and Payton’s unique decision had given them another edge.