All they needed to do was get into field-goal range, which shouldn't have been too difficult after a roughing-the-passer gift penalty essentially started the Vikings' drive at their own 40-yard line.
But an offense with an abundance of talent at the skill positions, including a quarterback paid like he should be able to put the team on his back and execute a game-winning drive, failed to deliver. The Titans intercepted a Cousins pass intended for Adam Thielen to seal their victory and drop the Vikings to 0-3.
Minnesota expects more out of its offense than it has gotten in three straight defeats, even after putting up 464 yards, 30 points and having a receiver (Justin Jefferson) with 175 yards and a running back (Dalvin Cook) with 181 yards on Sunday.
"I want our offense -- those guys are all veteran guys -- and I want them to take charge in those moments when we have the opportunity to go down and win the football game," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "Instead, it was chaos. We're going to have to get that squared away."
Cousins faced the third-highest pressure rate of his career on Sunday with pressure on 14 of his 30 dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That included six of his nine dropbacks in the fourth quarter and each of his three dropbacks on the Vikings' final drive. Overcoming the shortcomings of his offensive line has never been Cousins' strength. The Vikings know this and fielded him to the chaos anyway.
The defense was also chaotic, giving up 444 yards and explosive pass plays of 38 and 61 yards that let a 12-point third-quarter lead become a one-point Tennessee lead by the end of the period.
Zimmer categorized the offense's final drive as "a complete disaster." But so is his defense, which was down four starters in Week 3 -- defensive end Danielle Hunter, who remains on IR with a neck injury; linebacker Anthony Barr, who is out for the season; and cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler and Mike Hughes. The defense is constantly facing a "doubled-edged sword," according to Zimmer, who has to concede one area to fix another. When he changes coverages to help his young corners, it exposes the defense in a different area. It's all a lose-lose situation.
There's a lot of blame to go around. After digging themselves into a three-game hole that has the Vikings tucked away at the bottom of the NFC North, the wheels are on the verge of coming off if they haven't already.
Minnesota is in a state of self-created chaos everywhere. It's not just the offense or the defense's fault -- the Vikings have no one to blame but themselves.
Sure, injuries can't be avoided, but the inability to fix the offensive line over the years -- not just one season, years -- is a self-inflicted wound. Cousins looks the most comfortable when he's under center. For some reason, the Vikings had him lined up in the shotgun on three of four plays that sparked that disastrous last drive.
On first down, Cousins was pressured by Jadeveon Clowney and underthrew Cook. On second down, it didn't look like the QB was set and a wayward snap caused the Vikings to lose 14 yards of field position. On third down (when he was not in shotgun), Cousins was pressured and hit by Jeffery Simmons, which led to him underthrowing Cook again. Back in the gun on fourth down to attempt a Hail Mary, Cousins was again pressured by Simmons and his throw was picked off.
You cannot expect anything but chaos when your quarterback is pressured on 47% of his dropbacks. You also can't blame anyone but yourself for the way things have transpired.
This is Minnesota's first 0-3 start since 2013. That team finished 5-10-1 and the entire coaching staff was fired at the end of the year.
Soon, those conversations and demands from this fan base are going to get louder in spite of Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman receiving three-year contract extensions this offseason.
The chaos isn't likely to end soon with games at Houston and Seattle the next two weeks. If the Wilf family is serious about their commitment to winning, they'll have to take a long, hard look at the decisions they made -- the ones that are a full-fledged part of this chaotic start.