WASHINGTON (AP) No matter how inconsistent his Washington Redskins have been, unable to win two games in a row all season, coach Jay Gruden's message Tuesday, essentially, was rather simple: It's about time the team did things well on a regular basis.
''We've just got to keep grinding what we're doing, keep preparing, and protect better, throw better, run better routes, block better in the running game, run harder - all those things,'' Gruden said on a conference call with reporters. ''I just think it'll come. We've just got to stick with what we're doing.''
He was referring specifically to the team's offense, but the message could apply to other units, too.
That offense generated a grand total of only three points off three turnovers in Washington's 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.
That setback followed last week's win against the New York Giants and continued the Redskins' vexing pattern of following each victory with a loss.
Why the inability to capitalize on the defense's takeaways?
''Unfortunately it's not one thing that we can pinpoint. It might one time was schematically - we run into a horrible look that you're not going to get success (with), no matter how you block it. It might be we miss a throw or miss a read or miss a progression. It might be a protection we blow or have a miscommunication on a route concept,'' Gruden said.
''There's a lot of things offensively that we're not doing from a consistent standpoint that we should be doing by Week 13,'' he said. ''We should be better and we just haven't been for whatever reason, and capitalizing on turnovers is a major, major issue.''
With a quarter of the season left, the Redskins (5-7) head into next Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears in a three-way tie for first place in the lackluster NFC East with the Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys (4-8) are only a game behind that trio.
''You can look at it two different ways: You can be negative or you can have a positive outlook. We want to have a positive outlook for these last four games,'' Gruden said. ''I think we've done a lot in these first 12 games, both good and bad, but we're in a position where we can be very successful at the end of the year.''
There were all sorts of problems that hurt Washington against Dallas in a game that was about as poorly played as can be, filled with penalties, punts and turnovers.
''Short-term memory,'' linebacker Will Compton said. ''That's all that needs to be preached.''
But despite all sorts of mistakes - including missing a field-goal attempt, allowing a 46-yard kickoff return that set up the winning points, and an all-but-absent running game - Gruden did not outline any specific switches he intends to make.
One example of keeping things as they were this week: DeSean Jackson will get more chances to return punts in the aftermath of his ill-advised attempt to make a big play resulted in a fumble that gift-wrapped Dallas' only touchdown.
Rookie Jamison Crowder will remain the primary punt returner, Gruden said, ''but we'll see how he's doing, and anytime we think there's a spark to be had, we'll put (Jackson) back there.''
Notes: DE Stephen Paea has a sprained toe and probably won't play against his former team in Chicago. ''We'll have more about the injury here later in the week, but I would expect to him to miss at least one or two weeks, minimum,'' Gruden said. ... Other injuries: Compton (sprained shoulder), DE Jason Hatcher (stinger, sprained ankle), S Jeron Johnson (hamstring), RB Chris Thompson (sprained shoulder).
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich