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From waiver claim to playoff standout: Giants WR Isaiah Hodgins earns breakout game in wild-card win

New York Giants receiver Isaiah Hodgins picked a heck of a moment for his NFL breakout performance.

The third-year wideout made massive plays in Sunday's 31-24 wild-card victory over Minnesota, leading Big Blue with eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Hodgins scored a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give the Giants their first lead of the contest. On the final drive, the 24-year-old made a marvelous toe-tapping 19-yard grab on the sideline to put New York in scoring range in a 24-24 game. He then drew a holding call on Patrick Peterson in the end zone to set up the game-deciding score.

Hodgins went from a November waiver claim to a playoff hero in New York.

"To be honest, I wasn't very familiar with him before he got here, but he's a good player," wideout Darius Slayton said after the game, via "That's all he has shown since he got here. He's consistent, steady and that's what I expect out of him."

A 2020 sixth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills, Hodgins missed his entire rookie season due to injury. In 2021 he was waived during roster cuts and signed to Buffalo's practice squad. He was elevated for one game that season, playing four snaps and not seeing a target. In 2022, the Bills again waived Hodgins and signed him to the practice squad in late August. Hodgins was elevated in Week 5 against Pittsburgh and caught four passes for 41 yards in the blowout.

After two games for the Bills, Brian Daboll and the Giants plucked Hodgins off waivers in November. In eight regular-season games with Big Blue, Hodgins snagged 33 catches on 42 targets for 351 yards and four TDs. He has caught TDs in five of his last six games played. Hodgins has become such a vital member of the Giants' passing game that he was held out with other starters in Week 18.

The Oregon State product said he learned in Buffalo that regardless of your position on the depth chart, a wideout must approach every snap as if he's unstoppable.

"You have to have that mindset as a receiver," he said Sunday, via the New York Daily News. "That's something I really learned in Buffalo with Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, John Brown, Gabe Davis: When you line up, I'm the best receiver on that field and no one can stop me. You just have to believe in that and have that confidence in yourself, go out there play by play and show that improvement."

The 6-foot-4 youngster's best two games as a pro came against Minnesota. In Week 16's loss, he caught eight passes for 89 yards and a TD. He surpassed that performance Sunday afternoon.

Hodgins' breakout underscores Big Blue's ability to make things happen despite a mishmash receiver corps led by Hodgins, Slayton and Richie James. The Giants rolling up 431 yards of offense, including 289 passing yards -- more than the Vikings did despite a WR trio of Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn -- speaks volumes about Daboll's system and the high level of play from quarterback Daniel Jones.

The Giants receivers might be nondescript no-namers, but they don't lack for confidence.

"I feel like our confidence level is high every week coming in," Hodgins said. "Not a lot of people believe in us. We come in with that chip on our shoulder every single week and go out there and try to prove people wrong."

The Giants will have a chance to prove people wrong again in a third matchup of the season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night.

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