SAN DIEGO -- Peyton Manning and the NFL's hottest team entering the playoffs are going home for the winter.
But they wouldn't score again.
"We had chances to put the game away, but we just didn't do it," a downcast Manning said. "We've been winning those fourth-quarter games. The Chargers just did a better job of executing. Give them credit."
Manning completed 90 of 110 passes for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions in the last four games of the regular season. Overall during the Colts' winning streak, he was 209-for-290 for 2,248 yards and 17 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
"He started off slow, came back strong and did what a true competitor does," Colts running back Dominic Rhodes said. "But we lost, that's the bottom line. We're done, it's very disheartening. We didn't come through when we needed to."
The Colts led by three late in the game and forced a punt, but Mike Scifres pinned them at their 1-yard line with 2:41 left, and they were unable to get the first down that would have salted away the victory. On a third-and-2 play, Manning was sacked for the only time, by Tim Dobbins, back at the 1, forcing Hunter Smith to punt from the end zone.
"I'm not going to get into the specific plays," Manning said. "The Chargers made a good play on that one."
"We had to make one first down and we didn't make it, and that's what the game came down to," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "I thought Scifres did an incredible job. He was the difference in the game. He just pinned us in the hole all night long."
Scifres averaged 52.7 yards on six punts. He pinned the Colts inside their 20 four times in the first half with punts of 51, 58, 50 and 67 yards. Scifres' fourth-quarter punt that was downed at the Indianapolis 1 was a 52-yarder.
"We were backed up at times, but when you're backed up, the idea is go try to get a first down and change field position," Manning said. "We weren't able to do that."
The game was the fourth between the teams in the last two seasons and their second straight playoff matchup. San Diego won a 28-24 decision last January at Indianapolis after Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson went out with knee injuries before losing at New England 21-12 in the AFC Championship Game.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.