His numbers and play were beyond atrocious, as Flacco was 21-of-43 for 147 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. His passer rating for the afternoon paints the most gory picture of his play, as it was a horrendously terrible 45.3 (you know a rating is bad when one negative adjective isn't enough to describe it).
But as bad as everything looked on that Sunday afternoon, Flacco is still an elite NFL quarterback.
Do I sound crazy for saying that? In context, yes, but the rest of the season proves that isn't the case.
Prior to laying an egg against an always tough Houston pass defense (a pass defense that only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have managed to play decent against all season), Flacco was Baltimore's best player. Yes, even better than anyone on defense, and better than Ray Rice.
He had completed 62 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,690 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions, leading the Ravens to a 5-1 start to their season despite starting off the season playing four of those first six games in the span of 17 days.
Playing one terrible game against the best defense in the AFC isn't exactly a big cause for panic. Only two quarterbacks played well against this Texans defense, and both of those quarterbacks are on their way to stringing together Hall of Fame careers. In the case of Peyton Manning, his game against Houston only looked good numbers-wise, as the Texans held the Broncos in check for the first three quarters of the game and still pulled away with the victory.
One could make the argument that for Flacco to be an elite quarterback he can't have a performance as bad as he did against Houston (or against Kansas City in Week 5, when he threw for 187 yards and an interception while leading the Ravens to only nine points). But even the best in the league have had terrible games (see Rodgers' performance against Seattle in Week 3 or Manning's Week 2 loss to the Atlanta Falcons for a reference), and for Flacco, Houston was no different.
Flacco is elite for the same reason that Eli Manning is elite: He just wins no matter what the stats might say. He's led the Ravens to the postseason in his first four seasons in the league, and is on his way to a fifth-straight postseason berth. Flacco's done very well in the postseason as well, with Baltimore winning at least one game in each postseason appearance, with two trips to the AFC Championship Game.
This hasn't been a Mark Sanchez-type trip to the playoffs either, as the Ravens defense has progressively gotten worse as the years have gone on, while their offense has continued to improve.
Buying or Selling Joe Flacco as an "Elite" quarterback
The Ravens had a tough week already before going on the road to play Houston. Considering that the Texans had just come off an embarrassing loss at home on national television in Week 6, you would expect them to come out with a vengeance against a reeling Ravens team who lost their heart and soul the week before. I'm not excusing them for what was an all-around terrible game, but it does offer some perspective to what this team is facing going forward.
How Flacco leads them out of this tough stretch will tell us if he really is elite. If history is any judge, Flacco will right the Ravens' ship, and the team will be on their way back to the postseason.
If a quarterback can get to the playoffs five consecutive years, it's pretty safe to say that he's an elite quarterback.