INDIANAPOLIS -- The Raiders played most of Sunday’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium without Vontaze Burfict.
The team captain and veteran middle linebacker lived up to his reputation as a violent player with a penchant for crossing the line in the second quarter, when he lowered his head to spear Colts tight end Jack Doyle.
The play was properly flagged for a personal foul, and then the NFL's officiating review center in New York called for Burfict's ejection. The league can look at replays to examine ejection-worthy plays, and it disqualified Burfict in this instance.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden wasn’t thrilled with the decision, especially because it was made by officials away from the field.
"I know [officials in] New York City pulled the ejection, so you’d have to ask New York -- whoever is in the room that made that decision," Gruden said. "I think it was penalized multiple times by multiple referees today. Nobody on the field in our stadium or in this zip code made the call to eject him. That came from New York City, so what can I do? I don't have a cell phone on the field."
The Raiders continued to thrive even after losing their field general. Tahir Whitehead took over signal calls, and the Raiders' defense didn’t miss a beat in a 31-24 win over the Colts. That's important, considering Burfict might be suspended by the NFL for the helmet-to-helmet hit. A hefty fine from the league certainly is on its way.
"That's tough, you know," rookie defensive end Maxx Crosby said. "Vontaze runs the defense basically, so Tahir stepped up and started being more vocal, and I felt like we did a good job. We adjusted. We made plays, and we ended up getting the win."
The Raiders led 21-7 when Burfict was tossed, and they should feel blessed that his reckless play didn't create a negative outcome.
"He's a huge piece of our defense, and a huge part of what we do," free safety Erik Harris said. "We talked before the game about staying together and playing as one unit and playing for one another. Losing Burfict created some adversity we had to overcome, and we were able to do that today."