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Buccaneers' Baker Mayfield responds to Lions' Gardner-Johnson: 'I don't think he's really watched film'

Baker Mayfield's Buccaneers needed all 18 weeks to secure the NFC South title, but it took them just one quarter to score enough points to take down the defending conference champion Eagles in their wild-card win on Monday night.

Mayfield is hoping a notable member of his next opponent spends more time than that studying the tape. Lions safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson took a shot at Mayfield ahead of their Divisional Round meeting on Sunday in Detroit, complimenting Mayfield's cast of targets while sliding in a barb directed toward the quarterback.

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"This group probably is one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group," Gardner-Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. "If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that's a great group. [Mike] Evans, [Chris] Godwin, [Russell] Gage, that's a great group. I played against them for real."

Mayfield has understandably battled comparisons to Tom Brady since he arrived in 2023 and guaranteed he wouldn't try to be a replica version of the legendary quarterback. Gardner-Johnson didn't mention Brady's name in his response, but it's clear he was trying to get under Mayfield's skin, even while Mayfield is playing the best football of his career in his first season with the Bucs.

Never one to back down from a battle of words, Mayfield fired back on Wednesday by noting Gardner-Johnson's factual inaccuracy.

"I don't think he's really watched film because he mentioned Russell Gage," Mayfield said of the Buccaneers receiver who has been injured since training camp, via ESPN. "We love Russell but Russell hasn't played a snap all year for us."

Mayfield could have pointed to his numbers -- he became the first Buccaneers quarterback in franchise history to throw for 300-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns in a playoff game in Tampa Bay's win over Philadelphia -- as proof that he can, in fact, be the quarterback Gardner-Johnson envisioned for the Bucs. But ultimately, he'd rather let his play do the talking in a game for which Mayfield hopes Gardner-Johnson prepares better.

"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. So, he's a good player, but yeah ... just got to do a little bit more film study."

As Steve Smith once recommended, ice up, son. Or as Mayfield suggested Wednesday, study up, C.J.

With 4,044 passing yards and 28 touchdowns in 2023 -- both top-nine totals among all qualifying NFL quarterbacks -- Mayfield has a season's worth of production to support his confidence. He's aiming to back it up with another good game, one that might be productive enough to end this discussion definitively.

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