In the midst of what became a four-game losing streak, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis singled out two of his players in an attempt to inspire them to lead the team and play better football. Lewis' two targets were Andy Dalton and Rey Maualuga. At the time, our own Andrew Miller asked if it was a wise decision by Lewis to heap public criticism on those two, even if some felt it was warranted.
Over the past two weeks, one could argue that Lewis' comments have fueled a fire inside of these two leaders of their respective units. Lewis recently joined the nationally-syndicated ESPN Radio program, "Mike and Mike", to reflect ont he comments and their effects. While asked about it, Lewis was pleased with how the two youngsters responded to his criticism.
Lewis said Thursday on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" that he wasn't trying to "throw them under the bus publicly" but simply responding to a question a reporter had asked him about Dalton. Still, he's happy with how his young team, which he says has 36 players in their first or second seasons, has responded.
"All I'm doing is empowering them to continue to be the players we know they are. I know it worked out well because all the focus came back to me and got off of them," he said.
Lewis said his comments helped Dalton and Maualuga to prod their teammates to prepare for games at the same high level they expect of themselves.
"We know the ability of those guys and their ability to continue to lead," Lewis said. "They want to play to a high level so you have to make sure everybody else is preparing, practicing and playing at that same level."
He said with Dalton and Maualuga becoming more forceful, "the rest of the mature group could then take over with the help of these young guys."
Individually speaking, Dalton and Maualuga have played well over the past two games. Dalton has combined for 47 completions on 72 attempts (65%), 498 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Maualuga has had 25 total tackles (15 last week against the New York Giants) and a passed defensed. Not too shabby.
More importantly, the entire team has risen their play over the past two weeks. Last week's game was one of the best overall performances by a Bengals team in years. The week prior against the Broncos was a strong showing as well, even though the defense gave up 31 points to Peyton Manning and Co. Much like his impassioned postgame tirade that we witnessed in the 2009 "Hard Knocks" series, Lewis' public call to his team and its leaders seemed to have worked--even if it wasn't a popular move at the time.