Colts kick up their heels
Vinatieri good from 51 as time expires
SAN DIEGO - This time, Adam Vinatieri was right on from a lot farther out.
Vinatieri, one of the most clutch kickers in NFL history, made a 51-yard field goal as time expired to lift Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts to a heart-stopping 23-20 win over the San Diego Chargers last night.
He was kicking toward the same goal posts where just more than a year ago he pushed a 29-yard field goal attempt wide right with 1:31 left, allowing the Chargers to hold on for a 23-21 victory.
"You can't really change last year's outcome, obviously, and that kick will stay with me a long time," he said. "At least it was nice to get back out there and have another shot at it. Making that kick was pretty sweet."
Vinatieri pumped his fist even before the ball sailed through the uprights.
"I figured it had plenty of distance and so maybe a little premature celebrating," he said. "I was pretty guaranteed it was going through."
Manning threw two touchdown passes for the Colts (7-4), who won their fourth straight game to remain in wild-card contention.
The Chargers (4-7) have lost four of five, but the two-time defending AFC West champions are just two games behind division leader Denver.
Manning kept the winning drive alive with a 14-yard pass to Marvin Harrison on fourth and inches from the Chargers' 48-yard line following a long officials' review over the spot of the ball following the previous play.
It was Vinatieri's 22d career game-winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, including two last-second kicks that won Super Bowls for the Patriots.
It was Manning's 35th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Colts went ahead, 20-10, on Vinatieri's 38-yard field goal with 11:48 left. That kick capped a drive kept alive by two pass interference calls, both on third down.
The Chargers then scored 10 straight points. Philip Rivers threw a 1-yard TD pass to rookie running back Jacob Hester and Nate Kaeding kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:30 left.
Manning threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Rhodes on fourth and goal with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
Rhodes burned linebacker Stephen Cooper for the TD catch after he was stopped on three straight runs after the Colts had a first and goal at the 1.
The drive was set up by Rivers's fumble. He was scrambling when Robert Mathis came in from behind and batted the ball out of his hand. Raheem Brock returned it to the Colts' 34.
Earlier, Manning rebounded from a costly interception to throw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez with 38 seconds left before halftime to pull the Colts into a 10-10 tie.
Manning was intercepted by Quentin Jammer at the Chargers' 11 on Indianapolis's previous possession, and the Chargers turned it into a 10-3 lead when Rivers hit Vincent Jackson on a 39-yard touchdown pass.