Here are the top stories from Thursday:
From Kevin Van Valkenburg's ESPN The Magazine story on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: "This season, Brady seemed determined to narrow his focus, to tighten his inner circle and block out distractions in pursuit of a fifth Super Bowl ring. No football player in the history of the game has ever been so good for so long while artfully finding ways to keep the public at arm's length. With the criticism of Deflategate still hanging in the air, it seemed likely Brady would make his case for football immortality with the polite aloofness and cold-blooded calm of a Derek Jeter. Instead, he ended up revealing more of himself in one year than he had in the previous 15 seasons."
From Adam Schefter's story on how NFL coaching searches played out: "Hiring head coaches is not unlike drafting college players. Each team believes it got the man it wanted. Even those that didn't won't admit it. After the hiring is complete, just as after the player is drafted, each team thinks it has an answer for the future. Some are right; some -- not so much."
Panthers offensive tackle Michael Oher doesn't like "The Blind Side," but Panthers teammates love the movie, and him (by David Newton)
Thomas Neumann put together the ultimate Tom Brady-Peyton Manning quiz, featuring 50 questions that will challenge even diehard NFL observers.
Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse won't give hometown discount to Seahawks (by Adam Schefter)
Kathryn Smith, NFL's first female full-time coach, says reaction to her promotion is 'pretty extraordinary' (by Mike Rodak)
From Mike Sando's story on the Patriots' extra practices: "There was a long silence on the other end of the line while an NFL coach processed a chart showing just how many additional practices the New England Patriots have conducted over the past five seasons. The total is 22 percent higher for New England than for much of the league, an eye-opening differential in an era of sharply reduced practice opportunities."
From Aaron Schatz's story on why the Cardinals' blitz-heavy strategy could backfire against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton: "The average NFL team sends five or more pass-rushers on roughly 30 percent of opponents' dropbacks. Not Arizona, though. The Cardinals sent five or more pass-rushers on a league-leading 45.1 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season. That's not even the highest rate they've had in recent years; in 2013, the Cardinals blitzed 49.6 percent of the time."
Quarterback Joe Flacco willing to rework contract to help Ravens' salary cap (by Jamison Hensley)
Cardinals' Bruce Arians' coaching philosophy comes from Bear Bryant (by Josh Weinfuss)
From ESPN Stats & Information research: The Panthers scored only 10 offensive touchdowns this season that didn't result from a Cam Newton pass or rush.