The Vikings led by two points when they received the ball with 6 minutes and 31 left in regulation.
Almost nothing went right the rest of the way.
Minnesota used just 2 minutes and 49 seconds off the clock and was unable to add to its lead or drain the clock late in what turned into a 31-30 loss.
The Vikings were burned by a costly penalty. After gaining 14 yards on the first two plays, tight end Irv Smith, Jr., was called for an illegal block in the back.
Cousins was then sacked on first-and-20, putting the Vikings into an unmanageable second-and-27 situation. Minnesota soon punted before the Titans kicked the go-ahead field goal.
Down by a point with 1:44 left, the Vikings were aided by a personal foul on Tennessee that put the ball at Minnesota's 40.
But an incomplete pass preceded a snap Cousins wasn't ready for, and the Vikings lost 14 yards on the play.
The third-and-24 situation turned into a fourth-and-24 play, and Cousins' final pass of the day was intercepted.
Here are four more takeaways from Sunday:
1. Jefferson breaks out in 3rd game
Have a day, Justin Jefferson.
The Vikings rookie wide receiver — and headliner of a 15-man draft class — broke out in a big way in Week 3.
It wasn't enough as the Vikings lost 31-30 and couldn't hold a fourth-quarter lead against the Titans at home.
Jefferson, the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, racked up 175 yards and a touchdown on seven catches in just his third career game.
Jefferson's day was highlighted by a 71-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
With the ball at the Vikings 29, Kirk Cousins faked a handoff and dropped a dime to Jefferson, who was running a deep crossing route. The rookie did the rest, splitting cornerback Johnathan Joseph and safety Kenny Vaccaro at the 23-yard line before waltzing into the end zone.
He had six receptions for 104 yards at halftime.
2. A strong 2nd quarter
After back-to-back weeks of frustrating second quarters, the Vikings finally didn't beat themselves in the second stanza.
Minnesota entered Week 3 with a point differential of minus-31 in the second quarter, as the Vikings had been plagued by turnovers, penalties and safeties in two straight weeks.
But on Sunday, the Vikings won the second quarter with a 10-3 margin. That was better than 19-3 deficit against the Packers and the 15-0 deficit against the Colts.
Adam Thielen had a 16-yard touchdown catch in the quarter, and the teams also traded field goals in the period.
3. Rudolph in the red zone
Kyle Rudolph did it again Sunday, making an incredible one-handed catch in the end zone.
The play brought back memories of the tight end needing just one paw to bring in scores on the road in Dallas and Seattle during the 2019 season.
Rudolph also continues his success in the red zone, as 40 of his now 48 career touchdown catches have come in that area.
And of his 11 total touchdown catches from Cousins, nine have come from inside the 20-yard line.
4. Zimmer splits challenges
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer won his first challenge for the 2020 season on Sunday, but lost the second.
With the Titans facing third-and-13 in the second quarter, officials ruled a 13-yard reception by Tennessee. But Zimmer challenged the spot and won. The play was changed to a 12-yard gain to make it fourth-and-1.
Zimmer later lost a third-quarter challenge on a 21-yard catch, but officials upheld the call.
The split challenges means Zimmer is still an even .500 in challenges in his head coaching career.
Zimmer is now 20-20 on challenges with the Vikings, with 20 overturned and 20 upheld.