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June 17, 2024

Trash Talk Turns Into Turnovers as Gardner-Johnson Gets the Last Laugh Over Mayfield

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Jan 22, 2024

In a dramatic turn of events during Saturday’s NFC Divisional playoff game, Detroit Lions safety CJ Gardner-Johnson backed up his pregame trash talk by intercepting Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield in the first quarter. The Lions went on to defeat the Buccaneers 31-10 behind Gardner-Johnson’s lockdown coverage and Mayfield’s inefficient performance.

Lead Up to the Game Fuels Gardner-Johnson’s Comments

The war of words started earlier in the week when Gardner-Johnson called out Mayfield’s skills during an Instagram Live session. He claimed the Bucs had a “dangerous passing attack if they had a quarterback” and clearly did not think highly of Mayfield’s abilities.

Mayfield responded on Wednesday by telling reporters “I don’t think he’s really watched a lot of film on me” and indicated Gardner-Johnson would regret his comments come gameday. This back-and-forth ratcheted up the intensity leading up to Saturday’s matchup.

Gardner-Johnson Makes Good on His Word

It took only one Buccaneers possession for Gardner-Johnson to redeem his trash talk. He picked off an errant Mayfield pass near the sideline and proceeded to taunt the Bucs QB by flipping him the ball. Gardner-Johnson finished the game with 5 tackles, 2 passes defended, and the early interception while primarily covering star receiver Mike Evans.

Overall, Mayfield struggled mightily in his first career playoff start. He passed for just 154 yards on 21 attempts, threw 2 interceptions, lost a fumble, and failed to lead Tampa Bay to any touchdowns. Meanwhile, Lions quarterback Jared Goff was highly efficient en route to leading Detroit to their first playoff win since 1992.

Baker Mayfield’s Stats

Completions Attempts Passing Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
15 21 154 yards 0 2

What this Means for Both Teams Going Forward

The Lions will now travel to Philadelphia to take on the #1 seed Eagles in next weekend’s NFC Championship game. They seem to be a team of destiny after watching Coach Dan Campbell cry tears of joy with his players following the monumental upset. Detroit will need another heroic effort to knock off the Eagles on the road.

As for Tampa Bay, this game may mark the end of a short-lived era with Mayfield as their quarterback. Mayfield is set to become a free agent in March, and despite some initial rumors of mutual interest in his return, his poor showing against Detroit likely changed opinions within the Bucs front office. It would not be surprising if Tampa Bay goes searching for a new QB this offseason after their hopes of defending last year’s Super Bowl title ended abruptly.

Gardner-Johnson Has Emerged as a Rising Star

The Lions’ victory demonstrates the impact Gardner-Johnson has made since Detroit acquired him in a midseason trade from the Eagles. The 25-year-old safety has never been shy to speak his mind, but he consistently backs it up with stellar play on the field.

Gardner-Johnson earned the nickname “Ceedy Duce” for his tenacious style of coverage and has quickly become a locker room leader. He was already respected by teammates in Philadelphia, where he made the Pro Bowl last season. But Gardner-Johnson’s talent and contagious swagger have been crucial additions that helped transform the Lions from bottom feeders to legitimate contenders this year.

Given the instant chemistry in Detroit, Gardner-Johnson has clearly found an ideal long-term home to grow his game. Meanwhile, the budding rivalry between him and Mayfield will be an interesting storyline to watch in coming years if Mayfield remains in Tampa Bay. Their playoff matchup added another fiery chapter with plenty of disrespect flowing both ways.

What to Watch in the NFC Championship Game

As the Lions prepare for a monumental matchup with the Eagles, Gardner-Johnson will likely draw the difficult assignment of covering elite receiver A.J. Brown. Gardner-Johnson had some legendary battles with Brown back when they were NFC East rivals, so that will be one of the pivotal showdowns to watch next Sunday.

If Gardner-Johnson can contain Brown while continuing to force turnovers, Detroit will greatly increase their chances of pulling a second straight stunning road upset. But the Eagles present a much tougher challenge than the Buccaneers, especially with Gardner-Johnson’s old teammate Jalen Hurts playing at an MVP level this season.

Still, Dan Campbell has this Lions team believing they can achieve the impossible. And if anyone can get inside the Eagles’ heads, the notorious trash-talking safety certainly fits the bill. Gardner-Johnson has proven he not only talks the talk, but walks the walk when the stakes are highest. He smashed Baker Mayfield last round, and Jalen Hurts could be next in his crosshairs.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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