SAN DIEGO Peyton Manning was poised to turn one of his worst games into one of his most memorable.
Then Adam Vinatieri missed a 29-yard field goal attempt with 1:31 left, and the San Diego Chargers held on for a wild 23-21 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Colts on Sunday night.
Manning, who set a Colts franchise record with six interceptions, had driven the Colts to the Chargers' 12. Vinatieri, who had won two Super Bowls for New England with last-second kicks, pushed his kick just wide right.
The Chargers led 23-7 going into the fourth quarter even though their offense was as waterlogged as the field on a rainy night. Had Vinatieri's kick gone through, it would have been the 29th time that Manning rallied the Colts from either a fourth-quarter deficit or tie to win.
Darren Sproles, San Diego's speedy little return man, brought back the opening kickoff 89 yards for his first NFL touchdown, then ran back a punt 45 yards for his second score later in the first quarter.
But the Colts (7-2) scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in 23 seconds early in the fourth quarter to pull to 23-21.
Manning threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to running back Kenton Keith on the first play of the fourth quarter and then a conversion pass to Bryan Fletcher to close to 23-15.
On third-and-10 from the 8-yard line, Philip Rivers went back to pass and the ball slipped out of his hand and into the end zone. After a wild scramble, Colts linebacker Gary Brackett picked up the ball for a TD with 14:28 to play. Joseph Addai was stuffed on the two-point conversion attempt, and the Colts trailed by two points.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie celebrated his first NFL start by picking off Manning three times.
San Diego (5-4) took over sole possession of first place in the anemic AFC West.
Manning's final pickoff came on a desperation pass as time ran out.