CINCINNATI (AP) -- Andy Dalton's demeanor hasn't changed since coach Marvin Lewis challenged him to become more of a leader, even if it meant going against his character and being a jerk sometimes.
The quarterback's numbers, though, have gotten much better.
The Bengals have won three of the four games since Lewis publicly challenged Dalton to lead the offense and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to take charge of the defense. Cincinnati has won three in a row by at least 18 points -- its best streak of blowouts since 1976 -- and the two players have given their finest performances.
Lewis considers his unusual challenge a success.
"Their play is hopefully a byproduct of the reinforcement of their abilities that I gave them, the empowerment of their abilities, and the at-a-boys' to move forward but take control of it all," Lewis said.
The Bengals (6-5) are tied with Pittsburgh for the final AFC wild card berth heading into a game Sunday at San Diego (4-7).