Ed Mulholland | USA TODAY Sports

The popular narrative exiting this disastrous Giants season opener will be that they got off to a great start, and then it all went wildly wrong.

Do not buy it.

Oh, the Cowboys’ 40-0 romp on Sunday night was a true-blue train wreck. There is no arguing that. But it is a bit disingenuous to argue the Giants ever had the locomotive rolling on the tracks. Just as it was likely irrational to expect them to make a big leap this year.

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Yes, they moved the ball down the field to start the game. And yes, running back Saquon Barkley had a few strong runs. But the Giants were still outclassed from start to finish, even during those fleeting early moments. And then after the avalanche rumbled down the hill — and kept coming — the world was reminded of the brutal truth.

This is a team that went 2-5-1 down the stretch in 2023, as well as 1-4-1 in the NFC East, and was fortunate to ride a hot (and somewhat fluky) start to the postseason. This is a team that was then really fortunate to find the paper tiger Vikings in front of them before getting embarrassed by the Eagles. This is a team that made modest upgrades this offseason. And, following this debacle, this is a team that has been drummed by its biggest rivals to the tune of 78-7 the last two times it played for real.

To be clear: The Giants only got from their own 25 to the Cowboys’ 8-yard line to start the game because quarterback Daniel Jones racked up 31 yards — 16 rush, 15 via a Dallas personal foul — while scrambling. And Jones was scrambling because his porous offensive line could not block a soul. So once he stopped being able to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch — and that was never going to be a sustainable approach for any meaningful length of time — it was never going to work.

That is how third-and-2 inside the Dallas 10 because third-and-7 (false start on left tackle Andrew Thomas) and then fourth-and-21 (rookie center John Michael Schmitz bowled the snap) and then a shocking early deficit after safety Juanyeh Thomas blocked a long field goal try and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene returned it 58 yards for a touchdown. And it kept getting worse.

Busted coverages. A pick-six by cornerback DaRon Bland after a Jones pass went through Barkley’s hands. Another Jones pick. A lost fumble by wideout Isaiah Hodgins. Three three-and-out drives. Seven sacks. Twelve quarterback hits. A yanked field goal try by kicker Graham Gano. Surely we are forgetting a thing or three.

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We did not think this game would be as out-of-hand as it was. But we are not necessarily surprised by it. It has been hard to avoid drinking the Big Blue Kool-Aid over the last year or so around town. But we have abstained because it just never added all up to us. All of those comebacks and close wins. The lack of a bonafide playmaker in the passing game (we are not buying tight end Darren Waller’s stock yet), the volatility of a blitz-heavy defense and, above all else, a still-shaky offensive line.

The Giants were ahead of schedule last year. But that does not mean they will not get back on it this season. And that is OK. This was always going to be a multi-year rebuild after co-owner John Mara allowed former general managers Dave Gettleman and Jerry Reese drive the organization into the ground. But too many people ran with the early success and became convinced coach Brian Daboll and GM Joe Schoen had more or less invented the sport and would keep ascending. And because of that, evenings like this one hit even harder.

The Giants could still stabilize themselves and win their share of games this season. They might even make the playoffs again. And — as the pom-pom wavers will soon rush to yell — you can do amazing things after getting waxed by the ‘Boys in Week 1. But we would not bet on it. The mirage only works for so long. And the Giants have appear to have reached that point.

James Kratch can be reached at james.kratch@xlmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.