Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer took advantage of a tepid pass rush to scorch the Chargers for 440 passing yards and three scores.
"I've never seen us play that way," safety Marlon McCree said.
The Chargers' defensive back end needs to get right in a hurry, with Sunday's AFC West showdown with the Broncos on-deck.
Among the reasons the Chargers had enjoyed success this season was the play of the secondary. Often a lightning rod for criticism, it had been ranked No. 5 going into the meltdown at Cincinnati. Now it resides in the middle of the pack.
"I don't know that was in the first half," McCree said of his unit that allowed 282 yards in the opening 30 minutes.
Cornerback Quentin Jammer said the Chargers' woes were caused by what was rattling around their noggins.
"We should never have mental breakdowns of that magnitude," Jammer said. But 440 is 440. We won the game, that's what matters."
But Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer is likely salivating at his chance at the embattled group on Sunday. Especially considering how good the Chargers are at stopping the run and the troubles the Broncos have had running the ball the last two weeks.
"You are not going to keep him in the pocket," head coach Marty Schottenheimer confided. "You mine as well forget about it. If he wants to get out of the pocket he is going to get out of the pocket. They use a lot of movement in the passing game and he does a terrific job of throwing the ball on the run, not only in the intermediate area."
And then there is the prospect of covering Javon Walker – a receiver that is toying with opponents over the last few weeks.
"He is a hell of a player – him making plays with his feet and hands," linebacker Shaun Phillips admitted.
It will be a test of wills this Sunday night and could prove pivotal to the outcome of the game.