Out of nowhere, opportunity knocks on the door that leads to the NFC East title for the Giants.
The door opened much more than a crack at the Vet yesterday when Donovan McNabb went down and out, possibly for the rest of the regular season, with a broken ankle.
And now along comes Jeremy Shockey, the Giants' clenched fist of a tight end, their maniacal fireball manchild, jumping out of his skin and frothing at the mouth to kick the damn door down.
"The reason why that one might be so detrimental is he's the heart and soul of their team," Jason Sehorn said of McNabb's injury.
The Giants are one of these Quasimodo teams in the NFL these days. Kerry Collins will overthrow certain touchdown passes to Tiki Barber and Amani Toomer, and throw two interceptions, and get off the deck and shrug it off. Will Allen will keep a touchdown drive alive with a taunting penalty and then drop a pick in the end zone. Will Peterson will drop one that should have been a touchdown.
But these Giants will fight you all the way to the team bus. It used to be Jessie Armstead who gave them that personality. Now it is Shockey, the babe who shall lead them.
Shockey caught 11 passes for 111 yards yesterday, because Jim Fassel liked the matchup with Jeremiah Trotter and LaVar Arrington, and carried the Giants, all the way to Lance Legree's block of a 42-yard field goal at the end, to a 19-17 victory over the Redskins. Giant tight ends caught 17 passes all last season for 164 yards. Shockey rained on Jessie Armstead's parade. He dropped two passes and fumbled one? He's human.
"He's an interesting rookie," Collins said.
An Okie who marches to the beat of a drum maybe only Lawrence Taylor used to beat around here. One who signals first downs and shimmies and shakes, helmet ripped off his head, blond hair flying, as he implores the crowd.
They might cringe when they hear him on radio or pick up the back page of The Post, but they love him.
"You gotta respect him because he says what he feels," Collins continued. "Maybe there's not that buffer between thought and spoken word, but he'll work at it. But even if he doesn't, you gotta love the guy's fire, you gotta love the way he wants to win and competes. There's a fine line, do you say, 'don't do this, don't do this?', or you just let him go, and for the most part it's easier to let him go.
"I think it's good for us to have a guy like that. He creates that fire, that spark, that a guy with his personality can create."
Indeed, none other than warrior Armstead paid the kid the ultimate compliment when he said: "I'll take him to war with me any day."
Shockey caught seven passes for first downs. The eye-opener came just before the two-minute warning before the half, third-and-10 at midfield. Collins found Shockey, who spun away from a tackler short of the first down and wound up at the 35. Collins hit Toomer with a touchdown pass to tie the game on the next play.
"I caught the ball and I turned up the field and some guy went at my legs and I was lucky enough to shed one and keep going," Shockey said.
How are you able to play like that with your sore toe?
"It's just emotion, you know? Tiki shows emotion, but he does it with his actions. I try to do it with my actions and my body."
Shockey talked about getting better.
"I was the lucky one and got open," Shockey said. "I know I got a target on my back and everybody wants to gun at me and stuff, but it's gonna be like that every week."
Fassel has advised Shockey to control himself. But only so much.
"He's one of those guys, you love him on your team and you don't like him when he's on the other team. I'm glad he's on my team," Fassel said.