Maualuga leads resurgent Bengals defenseBy Carlos "Big C" Holmes
Dayton Daily News/Cox News Service
CINCINNATI — Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga has been criticized this season by some who say he doesn’t play with the tenacity he did as a rookie. The fourth-year player has muzzled critics for the moment with his performance in Cincinnati’s 31-13 victory over the New York Giants. But he must continue to prove he’s no average Joe.
“People can say what they want to say,” Maualuga said during a one-on-one interview after Sunday’s game. “I don’t want to show up in games and be just some guy. I don’t want to waste my time out there on the field and especially the fans’ time who are buying the tickets to come watch. I try to give it my all on every play.
“I’m the quarterback of the defense. If something bad happens, then obviously the blame is going to be on me. I take that with a grain of salt and put it on my shoulders, and go on to the next week. I know I have the coaches’ and players’ support. It’s all about going out there and leading. I push myself and am not one who lacks effort.”
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Maualuga made a number of outstanding plays on defense against New York. He missed the first tackle of the game, but then it was a lights-out performance. He had a game high 12 tackles and one pass defensed. Maualuga put himself in position to make plays and did damage by delivering a couple of hard hits to ball-carriers. He is second on the team in total tackles with 77 and will try to build on a strong outing when the Bengals face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
The Bengals’ up-tempo and ferocious defense was responsible for four turnovers and four sacks. The Giants’ offense didn’t stand a chance and was picked clean like a pack of wolves on a carcass.
“Coming off the bye week everybody had a chip on their shoulder,” Maualuga said. “We wanted to play how people outside the team expected us to play. We took it upon ourselves to come out each practice and compete. We felt that we can be as good as we wanted to be and challenged ourselves. We were determined coming into the game to play as a unit and walk away with the victory.”
Cincinnati had dropped four games in a row before ambushing the defending Super Bowl champions in Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals played well on both sides of the ball, scoring at will on offense and making plays on defense. After the game was over Maualuga and his teammates went back to their compound to bask in the victory.
“This is how it is supposed to be every single time,” he said. “Everyone’s happy and the locker room is not dead. We’re going to try and push this each week. If we want to keep this going and have fun, we have to be willing to put in the work. ”
The team’s celebration afterward was short-lived because there is still work to be done. Maualuga reflected back for a moment on the negative publicity the team endured during the losing streak. He and quarterback Andy Dalton were called out by head coach Marvin Lewis to lead the team. The coach’s comments spread like wildfire and created a frenzy of media attention. People on the outside thought a disruption among the team might occur, but the players weren’t fazed. They knew what was expected of them.
“Marvin is going to call people out,” Maualuga said. “If he didn’t have faith in me and Andy to push the team, I don’t think he would have put that responsibility on us. He believes in us. It’s whether we’re going to sit back, soak it in and accept it, or pout about it and let it affect our play. I can’t control what people say. I can only control what’s in-house and what the coaches want me to do. I’m just going to let loose and make plays.”