Eventually, he silenced everyone with his usual late-game magic.
Vinatieri, last week's goat, overcame a subpar day to rescue the Colts, making a 24-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to give Indianapolis a desperately needed 13-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
"Every time you're out there, if something bad happens, you've got to be able to shrug it off and go back out there and forget about it if you can," Vinatieri said. "Don't let it linger longer than you have to."
For Vinatieri, the November slump had lingered long enough.
He missed his first field goal ever inside the RCA Dome against New England two weeks ago.
Last week, he missed a 29-yard attempt that could have beaten San Diego. That miss prompted midweek speculation that Vinatieri might have lost his title as the NFL's best clutch kicker.
So when he lined up for a 49-yard attempt in the first quarter, fans greeted him with boos. When he pushed that kick to the right, the chorus grew louder, and when he pulled his next attempt, a 38-yarder, to the left, the decibel level rose again.
Suddenly, Vinatieri had missed four in a row, his longest streak since missing three straight in 1999.
When it mattered most, however, Vinatieri was himself. He played through the soreness in his plant foot to tie the score at 3 with a 27-yarder late in the first half, drawing mock cheers, then won it with the 24-yarder that finally brought the crowd to its feet.
"He's one of the last guys I'd be worried about," coach Tony Dungy said. "I think the law of averages will swing back our way, and I'd be surprised if he misses again this year."
Clearly, though, the Colts (8-2) were missing more than Vinatieri's consistency Sunday.
At halftime, Manning's passer rating was only 23.4 and despite a masterful closing drive to set up Vinatieri's winning kick, Manning still finished only 16-of-32 for 163 yards with one interception and a 52.0 rating.
Still, it was good enough to extend the Chiefs losing streak to three.
"We've got to get to the point where we stop people," said Chiefs defensive end Jared Allen, who deflected four passes and was in the backfield almost as much as Joseph Addai. "We've got to win the close games."
Brodie Croyle, making his first NFL start, was 19-of-27 for 169 yards with one touchdown, but he also lost a fumble that set up Vinatieri's first field goal. The numbers suggested he actually outplayed Manning, but the scoreboard told Croyle something else -- the Chiefs must get better.
"I felt comfortable out there," he said. "But we obviously didn't move the ball well enough. You learn something every time you go out there."
Indianapolis managed only 73 yards in the first half, marking the first time this season it had not produced a first-half touchdown. Yet thanks to Croyle's fumble and Vinatieri's field goal, the Colts were still tied 3-3.
In the second half, it appeared the offenses would right themselves.
Manning went to Addai eight times on a nine-play drive in the third quarter and Addai eventually scored on a 3-yard run to give Indy a 10-3 lead.
It wasn't enough to satisfy Manning.
"We need to start playing a little better offensively and being more efficient and not counting on our defense to hold their offense to 10 points," he said. "If your defense is holding their offense to 10 points, you ought to be able to win the game pretty soundly."
Croyle answered with a nifty pass to Dwayne Bowe on the side of the end zone. Bowe did a spectacular toe-tapping dance along the sidelines and hung onto the ball with his knees, which stood up to Dungy's challenge, to tie the score at 10.
Manning finally took the lead with 6:47 left, marching the Colts all the way to the Kansas City 2 before taking a knee three times and then giving Vinatieri a chance at redemption.
"You've got to go out there and perform every single time you step on the field," Vinatieri said. "Hopefully there were cheers at the end."
- Manning's second completion, a 38-yarder to Wayne, made him the second-fastest player to reach 40,000 yards passing. Manning did it in 154 games, Dan Marino did it in 153.
- Colts receiver Aaron Moorehead left with a back injury and tackle Ryan Diem left with a knee injury and did not return.
- The Chiefs have lost nine of their past 10 against Indy.
- Bowe finished with seven catches for 64 yards.