21 - 23 Final
  for this game

Chargers hold off furious comeback by Colts

Nov 12, 2007 - 6:50 AM
By Tim Powers PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

San Diego (Ticker) -- Even on his worst day, Peyton Manning appeared poised to pull off a comeback victory. That is until the best clutch kicker in the history of the game missed a chip shot.

The San Diego Chargers built a 23-point first-half lead and held on to beat the Indianapolis Colts, 23-21, when Adam Vinatieri missed a 29-yard field goal with 91 seconds to play.

It was only the second time in his career that Vinatieri has missed a field goal under 30 yards in the fourth quarter.

"I let my team down a little bit," Vinatieri said. "I just screwed that up. It's on me. I should make that kick every time. I have no good excuses, I just missed it."

San Diego (5-4) intercepted Manning a career-high six times and sent Indianapolis (7-2) to its second consecutive defeat.

"Usually when you have that many turnovers, that many interceptions, you don't have a chance," Manning said. "Everybody kept fighting and hung in there till the end, but you usually don't have a chance to win games like that."

Getting a kick return and a punt return for touchdowns by Darren Sproles, the Chargers seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 16-0 lead after one quarter and padding the advantage to 23-0 on LaDainian Tomlinson's 4-yard touchdown run with 8:47 left in the first half.

The Colts answered with by scoring two quick fourth-quarter touchdowns in a span of 32 seconds and then got an interception from linebacker Clint Sessions - his second of the game.

Manning started the comeback late in the third quarter. He led a 90-yard drive by completing 5-of-6 passes, capped off by a 7-yard strike to Kenton Keith with 14:51 remaining. A two-point conversion cut the deficit to 23-15.

After San Diego took over on its own 8-yard line in rainy conditions, quarterback Philip Rivers threw two incompletions before fumbling the third-down play into the end zone, where Gary Brackett recovered for a score.

"The play before I ended up on the ground, and I was trying to get my hands as dry as I could," Rivers said. "At that point, it was coming down pretty good, the rain was. It's inexcusable there to (fumble). It can't happen, and it put us in the position that we were in."

Running back Joseph Addai was stopped short of the end zone on the two-point try, pulling the Colts with 23-21 with 14:27.

The next Indianapolis drive was stopped short, and San Diego regained possession on its own 14 with 7:21 remaining.

After Rivers' pass was tipped on first down, Sessions made diving grab to give the Colts the ball at the San Diego 46 and 5:50 left on the clock.

Manning then had the Colts in position for the game-winning score, driving to the Chargers 7-yard line. Initially, officials ruled Addai had picked up a first down, but upon video review, the ball was marked a yard short.

The Colts took a delay-of-game penalty, setting up Vinatieri, but he missed wide right.

"That was one of the most disappointing games we've had since I've been here," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "You have to give all the credit to San Diego. They outplayed us in the first half and we did some things you can't do to win a game. I thought our guys fought back in the second half and played hard, but we didn't play well enough to win."

Despite the interceptions, Manning finished with a respectable 328 yards and two touchdowns while completing 34 of 56 pass attempts. His counterpart Rivers did not throw a score and committed three turnovers, going 13-for-24 with 104 yards.

"I'm sure there have been more emotional games, but in this one, you went from being comfortably ahead to just a nail-biter," Tomlinson said. "We're sitting there thinking Adam Vinatieri is going to knock that one through and we're going to have to go down and score. That was our mindset."

Antonio Cromartie had three interceptions - all in the first half - while making his first career start at cornerback for the injured Quentin Jammer.

"The biggest thing for me is we got a victory," Cromartie said. "I'm going against the best quarterback in the league in Peyton Manning, and for me to pick off three of his passes, for me it's a great accomplishment."

Sproles ran back the opening kickoff 89 yards and added a 46-yard punt return for a touchdown for San Diego.

"It's nice to win," Chargers coach Norv Turner said. "That's a heck of a football team. They're the defending Super Bowl champions, and any way you can beat them. I don't know how to explain it, but obviously, we'll take it."