Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks at a play card during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday Oct. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Matt Dunham

The Saints have changed the way they operate on offense.

There are some changes in the scheme, personnel that is used, and how the offense is attacking teams. But the one change that has been most noticeable is the mindset of the players on the field is different.

With a defense that is playing so well, the feeling that every drive must end up in points has gone away. Instead of taking risks, sometimes a safer throw is opted for. Or, sometimes, it might even mean throwing the ball away on third down instead of taking an unnecessary risk.

“At times, you call that the field-position game,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “No use in taking a chance here, the game is in hand. We’re up. Our defense is playing great, defense is holding them. Let’s kick them down inside the 10-yard line and let our defense go to work and come back with better position than we just had and go get points on that drive.”

But the improved defense has allowed coach Sean Payton to take some risks that he otherwise wouldn’t have taken in previous seasons. There’s an expectation that the group, which ranks 21st in yards allowed per game (344.7) and 12th in points (20.7).

Sometimes, instead of playing it safe, Payton feels as though he can punch the gas and take a chance because the defense can now handle a little more pressure if things go awry.

“I would say in some cases the (opposite of being risk averse) if you feel like, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this on fourth down where otherwise I might punt,’” Payton said. “You’re attention to your instincts and your gut as the game’s unfolding and how a game’s unfolding.”

So, sometimes the offense feels like it can take chances when the situation calls for it, but at the same time it no longer feels like it must chances because the defense is playing well.

Follow Nick Underhill on Twitter, @nick_underhill.​