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Mallett makes strides in QB race

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The competition for the Patriots' backup quarterback job was under the spotlight Monday night, with second-year player Ryan Mallett taking a step forward after a more shaky preseason opener.

Mallett engineered the drive of the night for the offense, a 13-play, 80-yard march that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass to tight end Alex Silvestro in the second quarter.

Mallett's best throw on the drive was a 20-yarder over the middle to receiver Deion Branch in which he stepped up in the pocket despite pressure closing on him.

If that was the best, the worst was one that Mallett got away with, a sideline throw that was intercepted by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie which was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty.

"It felt pretty good getting in there, getting in a little rhythm," said the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Mallett, who started the game and took 39 snaps overall (including penalties) compared to Brian Hoyer's 36.

Mallett finished 10 of 20 for 105 yards and 1 touchdown.

Hoyer, the No. 2 signal-caller each of the last three years, was 5 of 17 for 55 yards, and lost a strip sack.

"Obviously, he did a pretty good job tonight and that will make me step up my level too," Hoyer said, when asked about the quarterback competition. "I'm sure when I look at it [Tuesday], I'll wish I took a few more shots, had a few more completions, or just gave my guy a better ball. You learn from it, move on and [know that] it's time to keep working."