Marvin Lewis: Bengals met challenge

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Thursday in an interview with ESPN Radio that he's happy with how Andy Dalton and Rey Maualuga have responded since he called for the two players to step up as leaders just over two weeks ago.

Lewis made headlines on Oct. 31 when he publicly called for his young quarterback and middle linebacker to be more forceful leaders after his team had lost three games in a row heading into their bye.

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.

The Bengals lost their next game, falling victim to Peyton Manning's best-since-the-merger 48th game-winning drive to drop their fourth straight game. But Cincinnati ended its skid last Sunday, shocking the defending champions Giants in a 31-13 victory in which Dalton threw for four touchdown passes.

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."

The Bengals (4-5) will try to get back to .500 on Sunday when they play at Kansas City against the Chiefs (1-8).