"They are a young group and they are developing," coach Marty Schottenheimer said of his 25th-ranked unit.
Please. That excuse has been trotted out for at least three years and it's simply not true.
Cornerback Quentin Jammer was the fifth overall pick in the 2002 draft, making him a four-year pro.
Cornerback Drayton Florence was a second-round pick of the 2003 draft, and he's in his second season as a starter.
Strong safety Terrence Kiel was a second-round pick of the 2003 draft; he has been starting since late in his rookie year.
Free safety Bhawoh Jue is in his fifth season.
So that alibi is wearing thin and few who've watched the Chargers closely are buying it.
"I think what happens is a sense of panic sets in," Schottenheimer said of his secondary. "It's a natural reaction."
Funny, but the youth of those two aren't mentioned.
What's no joke is this team was built for a serious run deep into the playoffs this year. Instead, it sits at 2-3 and has little confidence in a secondary which this week faces Oakland's Randy Moss.
At this point, covering Kate Moss might present a challenge.
The Chargers' secondary has been struggling and now this: A Sunday date with the pass-happy Oakland Raiders. If the Chargers are to return to their winning ways, they must figure a way to stop Raiders tandem of quarterback Kerry Collins and Moss.
So far, the Chargers' pass defense has been the entire team's Achilles' heel. It enters the game giving up an average of 240 yards per game and is ranked 26th.
But free safety Bhawoh Jue has a different idea. No matter that his coach, Marty Schottenheimer, has said time and again the secondary most play with more consistency.
"I wouldn't say that the Steelers picked on our secondary," Jue said. "For anybody who thinks that they're can come in and just throw us all over the place, (well) you get into the game and you find out something completely different. We're a solid group back there and we've been playing solid."
If so, our mistake.
"It's going to be a great test for our secondary because they have three great receivers -- uh, one great one and two dang good ones," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "It's going to be a good match up."
But on the surface, it seems like a bad match up for the Chargers. Then again, if they can stifle Moss and Co., it would give the pass defense a heck of a boost going into the next week when they must tangle with the Eagles combo of Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens.
"I think the key to shutting (the Raider) guys down is playing honest football," Jue said. "Just continually do what you're supposed to do on every play. The second you break out of that mold and you try to make a play that's not there is when you're going to give up the big ball or when you fall asleep."
The Chargers' defensive backs can't afford to hit the snooze alarm Sunday.