The Eagles held a players-only meeting at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday.

Call it another step in a recovery program titled "Coming to Grips with a Losing Season."

Wide receiver Jason Avant gathered the players after a full team meeting and handled speaking duties.

Asked if he also had something to say, quarterback Michael Vick said: "Jason Avant said enough."

While the majority of players refrained from divulging what exactly was said at the meeting, it wasn't hard to ascertain what the general message was: As the late Al Davis would have said, "Just win, baby!"

The Eagles are 1-4, and a loss Sunday at Washington will all but wipe away any chance at a playoff berth. Win, and there is hope. Win, and Andy Reid perhaps gets a two-week reprieve - a bye follows the Redskins game - from the hot seat.

Pressure on Reid - primarily through the media and from the fans - is mounting, though. The players took notice.

"We're going to fight for him every minute," Vick said. "It's not Coach Reid's fault. Coach can't go out and hold onto the ball. Coach can't throw the ball down the field. Coach can't go out there and do it, he can only give us what we need - the recipe for victory, and that's what we're getting.

"I've been around the game for a long time, and I know the intricacies and the ins and outs, and it's not Coach. Bottom line. Put the heat on the players. . . . Don't put it on him."

Reid, meanwhile, continued to shoulder the blame for his team's woeful start. He was asked if he still considers himself the right coach to lead the Eagles.

"I am the head coach of the football team, and so I take full responsibility for how we played, and we're all going to work hard and get better, including myself," Reid said.

As the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, Reid also is the chief architect of the team and its coaching staff. This is his vision. But it's turned into a nightmare, and with each loss he runs the risk of losing the support of his players.

But that doesn't appear to be the case yet.

"We're buying in more than ever, because we know he's the one that's trying to make sure we're staying together as a team," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "It's not like he hasn't done a lot of good things and had a lot of success in this league."

If Reid's is the No. 1 target for disgruntled fans and critics, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is a close second. The defense has struggled all season - only four teams have allowed more points - but Reid defended Castillo.

"When you have five turnovers you have a 6 percent chance of winning a football game," he said. "Simple."

Early Wednesday, ESPN reported that former Browns and New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini turned down an offer to join the Eagles as a defensive consultant. Reid flatly denied that report and an earlier ESPN story that stated he had mulled over the idea of bringing in a consultant to assist Castillo.

"That was all fabricated," Reid said. "I wasn't in touch with anybody. Nobody. Nothing. Zero."

Mangini works for ESPN as an analyst. He declined a request for an interview, but an ESPN spokesman said that Mangini denied being offered a position by the Eagles and that he had no contact with the team.

Consultant or not, the Eagles' defense needs to improve, specifically against the run. The unit is third-to-last in the league in stopping the run. Tackling has been an issue, but the wide-nine scheme up front that creates large gaps has put additional pressure on an average group of linebackers and safeties.

"The Detroit Lions run the same type of defense and front four that we run, and they're 5-0," linebacker Jamar Chaney said. "The wide nine is not the problem."

One defensive player, however, told The Inquirer on condition of anonymity that the wide nine needed to be scrapped and replaced by a more traditional front.

Reid, nevertheless, said that morale on the team was still high. A win on Sunday would keep spirits up and temporarily hold off the next step in the recovery program.

"We're in a must-win situation, the same as last week," tackle Todd Herremans said. "We understand the implications of our record, and the hole that we've dug ourselves. I don't think our goal has changed at all. We're all still focused on winning."