"Credit goes to (offensive coordinator) Mike McCarthy for calling an excellent game," Brooks said. "We ran the ball effectively and it opened up the passing game. That 1-2 punch, you can't ask for anything better than that."
Joe Horn caught eight passes for 148 yards while rookie tight end Eddie "Boo" Williams made a surprising contribution for New Orleans with a pair of touchdown catches. Williams had just three catches in three games.
"Aaron played an almost flawless game," Horn said. "I hope he takes this performance and learns from it."
Manning threw for 262 yards and a touchdown with an interception and nearly ran for another score.
In one of the wildest plays of the NFL season, Manning fooled the Saints when he faked a spike as time expired in the first half, and raced for what appeared to be a 35-yard touchdown. However, referee Jeff Triplette inadvertently blew the whistle while anticipating the spike and some of the Saints defenders froze.
The officials ruled the whistle stopped the play and the clock at one second and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 52-yard field for Indianapolis (4-5), tying the game at 17-17.
"Never seen one (fake spike) like that before, have you?" Manning said. "I suckered everybody. I asked the referee to give us at least one more play."
However, Triplette ruled the whistle stopped the play.
"The quarterback faked spiking it into the ground and kind of went down towards his knees and I took the fake and blew the whistle," Triplette said. "So that is an inadvertent whistle and I looked and there was still one second when I blow. The play is dead at that point, so we come back and put the ball down and give the one second and that is the end."
The Saints (5-4) took the lead for good when Brooks hit Williams with a 12-yard touchdown 3:25 into the third quarter.
Ricky Williams, who rushed for 120 yards on 28 carries, scored on a 14-yard run with 4:35 left in the fourth quarter to give New Orleans a 34-20 lead.
The unpleasant finish here is nothing new for the Manning family. Peyton's father Archie, a two-time Pro Bowler, played 11 years with the Saints from 1971-75 and 1977-82 and is the franchise's all-time leader in passing yards (21,734), touchdown passes (115), completions (1,849) and attempts (3,335). But he never reached the playoffs.
Peyton led the Colts to the playoffs in two of his first three seasons, but does not have a postseason win and may not be heading back this year with his team behind the New York Jets (7-3), Miami (6-3) and New England in the AFC East.
"It's not something you want to get used to -- losing two games in a row," Manning said. "We've got to bounce back next week. Just gotta keep going. It's still a crazy season."
Colts coach Jim Mora returned to New Orleans for the first time since he stepped down as Saints coach midway through the 1996 season. Mora was the only winning coach in New Orleans history, before Jim Haslett succeeded Ditka in 2000.
Mora led the Saints to three playoff appearances and a 93-78 record in 10 1/2 years. They won 10 or more games on four occasions, but failed to win a playoff game in four postseason trips under Mora.
"I had a good 10 1/2 years with this Saints organization," Mora said. "I wish the outcome had been better. It felt good to be back, but we came down here to win a football game and we didn't get that done. So you're disappointed there."
Horn had no sympathy for the Colts' injuries.
"I know people are going to say that we won and Edgerrin didn't play, but we won games last year when Ricky was hurt," Horn said.
The day started out well for Manning, who watched tight end Marcus Pollard make a one-handed catch over the middle and turn it into an 86-yard touchdown on Indianapolis' first play from scrimmage.
A one-yard touchdown run by Rhodes, who started his third straight game for the injured James, increased the lead to 14-0 with 1:14 left in the quarter.
New Orleans started to turn the tide after a 63-yard punt return by rookie Deuce McAllister to the Indianapolis 28. Three plays later, Brooks hit Williams with an eight-yard touchdown four seconds into the second quarter.
John Carney kicked a 46-yard field goal later in the quarter and Brooks escaped what appeared to be a sure sack and ran left for a seven-yard touchdown with 35 seconds left in the half to give the Saints their first lead of the game.
Ricky Williams broke off a 16-yard run to the Indianapolis seven before Brooks rushed for his first touchdown of the season.
But 35 seconds was enough time for Manning to move the Colts into field position with passes of 12 yards to Pollard and 14 yards to Marvin Harrison before the fake spike.