The Baltimore Ravens quarterback has flown above his critics during the team's promising start this season, but his play in Sunday's 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans was a disturbing sight.
Flacco and the offense never got off the ground, starting 0 for 8 on third-down attempts. Baltimore had the ball for less than 10 minutes of the first half. After opening with a field goal, the Ravens' next seven drives read like a horror novel: punt, safety, interception, three more punts and Flacco's second pick of the day.
During that stretch, the Ravens' offensive line was tormented by J.J. Watt and a Texans defense that tipped four of Flacco's first-half passes, two of them leading to interceptions, one of them taken back to the house on Johnathan Joseph's 52-yard pick six.
The Texans showed the rest of the NFL how to stifle the Ravens' no-huddle passing game. Houston's cornerbacks did an excellent job in man-to-man coverage, pushing Baltimore wideouts to the sideline and keeping pass-catchers from getting free over the middle. The loss of linebacker Brian Cushing leaves the Texans soft in pass coverage in the belly of the defense, but coordinator Wade Phillips was masterful in patching up that weakness against the Ravens.
Flacco completed just 21 of 43 passes for 147 yards with two interceptions. His lone touchdown in the second half was a strike that came too late to factor into a dominant performance by Houston's defense, which answered its critics after bleeding points and yardage against the Green Bay Packers.
Billed as a preview of the AFC title game, this was an uneven affair between teams heading in very different directions.