In Sunday’s Week 17 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, Gardner had a must-see matchup with D.K. Metcalf. The two are as physically gifted at their respective positions as it gets, playing physical, strong brands of ball on the outside while also possessing special athleticism at their enormous size.
In just his 16th NFL game for the Jets, in a prime matchup with Metcalf, Gardner delivered, and at an extraordinary level, further establishing his status as one of the league’s best shutdown corners.
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New York Jets CB Sauce Gardner shines in contest with D.K. Metcalf:
For starters, Gardner finished Sunday’s game with a new career-high in passes defended with four, two of them against Metcalf. It surpasses the three pass breakups he recorded twice in Weeks 6 and 7. Following the four tallied in Week 17, Gardner now has 20 passes defended, which is by far the most in the NFL (four tied for second with 15). In 12 of the Jets’ 16 games this year, Gardner has broken up at least one pass. With only one week left, Gardner will likely finish the 2022 season with the most passes defended. An incredible feat for the rookie.
Then, against Metcalf in particular, Gardner, while not on his own, played an integral part in limiting Metcalf to one catch and three yards on four targets. Metcalf entered the matchup with 1,005 yards on the year (67 per game).
In the red zone, Gardner has predominately lined up as the Jets’ boundary-side corner. He was tested inside the 20-yard line when matched up with Metcalf more than once and held his own each time.
When finally tested on a go ball, playing as the field side corner against Metcalf’s blazing speed, Gardner showed the usual poise he plays with, staying in phase and using his length at the catch-point to help break up the pass.
Despite the Jets aggravating fifth-straight loss, taking them out of the playoffs, Gardner once again played up to his dominant standard. In a challenging competition with someone as great as Metcalf, Gardner just continued to prove his capability of playing against the best.