The Cincinnati Bengals have watched their 3-1 start fizzle away with three consecutive losses that have the team grasping for relevancy in the AFC North.
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Last year's feel-good story has run out of steam.
Coming out of the bye week, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is challenging his roster to wake from its slumber. He singled out quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga as quiet types who need to light a fire and lead the Bengals to .500 and beyond.
"We've wallowed around here in mediocrity. Let's go," Lewis said, via The Associated Press. "We're looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team."
Both Maualuga and Dalton seemed to accept Lewis' challenge.
"I guess it is my opportunity -- not like it was never given to me but at the same time, time to be a jerk, time to get in the middle of that defense and start spicing things up," Maualuga later said.
Dalton also responded: "As a rookie, you come in and you are meeting new people. Now, second year, it is your offense. It is your team. That is how I've got to treat it. He just wants some fire out there, making sure we are perfect in practice in everything we are doing. I am not too worried about what he said. It's just he expects a lot out of us."
Something needs to change. The Bengals have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, but Dalton and friends sandwiched recent home losses to the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers around a defeat to the (then-winless) Cleveland Browns.
Dalton was a revelation during his rookie campaign, but his combined 0-6 mark against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens is distressing. Surging young teams find a way to win a few of those games. Mediocre ones don't.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.