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 on Sunday 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 win.
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) remain desperate. The two-time defending AFC West champions have lost four of five and remain two games behind division leader Denver, which was upset 31-10 by the Oakland Raiders.
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 22nd career game-winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime. Included on that list are two last-second kicks that won Super Bowls for the New England Patriots.
It was Manning's 35th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Manning seemed determined not to take a fourth straight loss to the Chargers. It was the Chargers who ended the Colts' 2007 season with a 28-24 upset in a divisional-round playoff game.
It wasn't easy, though.
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 pass interference calls against defensive backs Antonio Cromartie and Clinton Hart, both on third downs.
The Chargers scored 10 straight to tie it.
Philip Rivers threw a 1-yard scoring pass to rookie running back Jacob Hester and Nate Kaeding kicked a 47-yard field goal with 1:30 left.
Manning turned a turnover by Philip Rivers into a 17-10 lead, throwing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Rhodes on fourth-and-goal with 38 seconds 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' fumble.
Rivers was scrambling when Robert Mathis came in from behind and batted the ball out of his hand. Raheem Brock scooped it up and returned it to the Colts' 34.
Earlier, Manning rebounded from his own 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.
On Indianapolis' previous possession, Manning was intercepted by Quentin Jammer at the Chargers 11.
The Chargers turned it into a 10-3 lead when Rivers hit Vincent Jackson on a 39-yard touchdown pass to cap the 89-yard, nine-play drive. Jackson made the catch behind two defenders before falling into the end zone. It was just the third TD pass allowed by the Colts this year.
The Colts had gone three games without a turnover and the Chargers had gone four games without a takeaway.
Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal and San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked a 35-yarder, both in the first half.
Manning completed 32 of 44 passes for 255 yards. Rivers was 24-of-31 for 288 yards.