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The New England Patriots had trouble getting into the end zone.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork made sure the Oakland Raiders stayed out of the end zone in the final minute.
An interception by the 325-pound Wilfork near his goal line gave the heavily favored Patriots the ball with 51 seconds left, and they ran out the clock to hold off the Raiders 16-9 on Sunday.
"It was a team play," Wilfork said after his third career interception. "I just happened to catch it."
The ball deflected off Logan Ryan after Rob Ninkovich jarred it loose from intended receiver Denarius Moore. On the previous play, Darren McFadden's 6-yard potential tying run into the end zone was nullified by a holding penalty against guard Gabe Jackson.
"When I turned around and everybody wasn't coming to celebrate with me, I knew something wasn't right," McFadden said said.
Jackson didn't think he held. The penalty gave Oakland first-and-goal from the 12.
Then Ryan redeemed himself for a pass interference penalty on the play before McFadden's run. Just as Raiders coach Dennis Allen disagreed with the holding call, the Patriots' Bill Belichick questioned the pass interference.
In spite of a sluggish offense that settled for three field goals by Stephen Gostkowski and just one touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots (2-1) won their home opener for the 12th time in 13 seasons.
The Raiders (0-3) lost their 15th straight game in the Eastern time zone. They were held to three field goals by Sebastian Janikowski and finished with no interceptions despite several opportunities.
"We are moving in the right direction," Oakland defensive end LaMarr Woodley said. "When we have an opportunity to catch the ball we need to catch it."
Brady completed 24 of 37 passes for 234 yards and became the third quarterback with 150 regular-season wins behind Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning, who came into Sunday with 169. And Brady is 57-5 in his last 62 home games, including the playoffs, posting another win despite a mediocre offensive performance.
The Patriots scored 10 points in the last 4:14 of the second quarter to take a 10-3 lead - but it could have been 14-3. Brady capped a 15-play, 84-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Gronkowski, who shook off linebacker Kaluka Maiava and caught the ball as he went over the middle.
"We did just enough to get the victory," Gronkowski said. "Sometimes it's frustrating, but what we did today is not always going to get the job done."
The Patriots had a chance for another touchdown when they reached the 2-yard line with 8 seconds left in the half. But Dan Connolly's snap was low and Brady picked it up and quickly threw an incompletion, stopping the clock with 3 seconds remaining. Gostkowski then kicked a 21-yard field goal.
"We have first-and-goal on the 1 1/2-yard line and settle for a field goal," Brady said. "You just can't do that."
Derek Carr completed 21 of 34 passes for 174 yards for Oakland. But with running back Maurice Jones-Drew sidelined for the second straight week with a right hand injury, the rookie remained winless as a pro. McFadden started in Jones-Drew's spot and rushed for 59 yards on 18 carries.
The Patriots relied on their running game early against the NFL's worst rushing defense and picked up 63 yards on the ground in the first half but just 16 the rest of the way.
"Sometimes you got to grind them out," Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said. "An ugly win is better than a pretty loss."
The Raiders planned to leave after the game for London, where they face the Miami Dolphins in Wembley Stadium next Sunday.
"I was looking forward to it being after a win," Oakland safety Charles Woodson said. "It's a great opportunity to represent the NFL, but it's a business trip."
This article was originally published on September 21, 2014.
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