When asked about preparing for the Rams last week, Gardner-Johnson said via the Detroit Free Press, “This group probably is one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group. If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. Evans, Godwin, [Russell] Gagethat’s a great group. I played against them for real.”
Mayfield responded Wednesday, “I don’t think he’s really watched film because he mentioned Russell Gage. We love Russell but Russell hasn’t played a snap all year for us.”
Gage suffered a season-ending torn patellar tendon in his right knee during a joint training camp practice with the New York Jetswith wide receivers Trey Palmer, David Moore and Deven Thompkins filling the void. Mayfield, who signed with the Bucs this offseason on a one-year deal in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement, led the Bucs to a 9-8 record and an NFC South title, with a convincing 32-9 victory over the Eagles in the wild-card round Monday night.
Mayfield, who’s now 2-1 all time in the postseason, brushed it off and said he was eager to face the Lions’ talented safety whose penchant for trash talk is well known. At times, Gardner-Johnson’s trash talk has escalated. In 2021 alone, he was punched by three different receivers. Gardner-Johnson missed the Lions’ 20-6 victory over the Bucs in Tampa in Week 6 due to a torn pectoral muscle.
“He must be going off of preseason stuff that the media was talking about,” Mayfield said. “I’m excited to see him. I think he’s a really good player. He has been for a while. He’s been an impactful guy on every team he’s been on,” Mayfield said. “So, he’s a good player, but yeah … just got to do a little bit more film study.”
Mayfield threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles — becoming the Bucs’ first quarterback in postseason history to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield’s 1,456 passing yards in the final six weeks of the regular season were seventh most in the league, as were his 11 touchdowns in that span. His 4,044 passing yards this season were ninth-most, and his 28 touchdowns were seventh-most in the regular season.