The options for Dungy and the Colts seemed to be: 1. Go for a quarterback sneak behind a rookie center; 2. Risk a short run at midfield, a scenario the Chargers had stuffed on the previous series; 3. Punt to the dangerous Darren Sproles, hope the Chargers don't score and take their chances in overtime.
The Colts used their final timeout, then ran Dominic Rhodes up the middle for another yard before spiking the ball with just two seconds left.
Dominic Rhodes spikes the ball after catching a third-quarter touchdown pass
AP Photo/Dennis Poroy
That set the stage for kicker Adam Vinatieri, who famously missed a 29-yard chip shot last season that would have given the Colts an improbable win in San Diego.
Lightning wouldn't strike twice for the Bolts, however, as Vinatieri flashed his usual clutch form on the kick. His booming boot never wavered as it split the uprights from 51 yards, giving the Colts a 23-20 win.
The win moved the Colts to 7-4 on the season and kept the Colts in a tie for the first wild-card spot in the AFC. Indianapolis also owns tiebreakers over the other two 7-4 teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.
The game was close from beginning to end, as the two teams traded field goals in the first half. San Diego found the end zone first, as Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson over the middle for a 39-yard score that made it 10-3 with 5:05 left in the first half.
The Colts were able to drive down the field, however, and Peyton Manning hit Anthony Gonzalez on 13-yard pass to tie the score at 10-10, just before halftime.
San Diego drove to the Indianapolis 24-yard line to start the second half, but Robert Mathis sacked Rivers and stripped him off the ball, and Raheem Brok recovered for the Colts. Back came Indianapolis, as Manning led Indianapolis on a 13-play, 66-yard scoring drive capped by a short pass to Rhodes on fourth down.
The Colts would add a Vinatieri field goal in the fourth quarter that made it 20-10, but the Chargers weren't going away. San Diego engineered a touchdown drive, then forced a three-and-out. A field goal from Nate Kaeding with 1:35 left set up the dramatic finish.
Manning was again superb for the Colts, hitting on 32-of-44 passes for 255 yards with two touchdowns for a passing rating of 92.5. Joseph Addai caught seven Manning passes, and Gonzalez, Harrison and Dallas Clark each hauled in six balls. Rhodes had five catches.
Addai gained 70 yards on 16 rushes, including a 23-yarder, his longest run of the season. Rhodes added 21 yards on seven carries.