Saints morning report: Deferring to defense

METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints opted for a rare approach after winning the coin toss inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. They deferred, opting to start on defense and take the ball in the second half instead.

In the past, Saints coach Sean Payton said he used to go with the simpler approach at home: “Hey, win the toss, we take the ball.”

But a couple things have changed his attitude recently. For one, he has continued to gain trust in the Saints’ defense, which has been downright dominant at times this season (and was again, starting with a three-and-out against San Francisco). For another, Payton realized that starting on defense can help sustain the home crowd’s pregame excitement.

Payton said a suggestion he received from a fan this past offseason helped drive that last point home.

“I receive a lot of letters in the offseason, during the season. And one letter I had was this guy [who] made an argument, ‘You had this crowd in a frenzy and then you take the ball and ask them to be quiet,’” Payton said. But he insisted the idea wasn’t completely fan-generated. “I’m not saying that suggestion was the reason, but it makes a lot of sense.”

Worth repeating:

“Trust me, I have a better time hustling the full ones than ducking the empties, and I’ve been at both. I like it here.” – Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, when asked again Tuesday about his growing popularity in New Orleans, which includes fans regularly joining him for a celebratory drink after home victories. It wasn’t clear if Ryan was talking about empty bottles or empty rooms. Either way it was a great line.

Worth a click:

Make sure to check out ESPN.com’s Atlanta Falcons page and follow Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure @vxmcclure23 for all your Falcons news during this short week.

The Times-Picayune’s Jeff Duncan says you can question the Ahmad Brooks penalty all you want, but you can’t question Drew Brees’ toughness.

The Times-Picayune’s Katherine Terrell writes about Pierre Thomas’ steady climb on the Saints’ all-time rushing lists.

The Advocate’s Sheldon Mickles points out what a role reversal this week is from last year’s Saints-Falcons Thursday night game.

This video offers a great peek into the remarkable life of Steve Gleason: The History of Team Gleason Part I.