When the Vikings offense needed a play, quarterback Kirk Cousins delivered an accurate and on-time strike to receiver Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard out to convert fourth down. Two plays later, receiver Adam Thielen caught a 1-yard touchdown to force overtime.

That was the Vikings' only drive during Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss in Baltimore during which both Jefferson and Thielen had a catch — a failure so big that only multiple culprits can be blamed.

"There's so many factors that lead into it, right? You've got to get open," said Thielen, who had two catches for six yards. "The quarterback has to read, has to have the right coverage for you to get the ball. You've got to have enough time for the play called."

"I think we kind of ran into every single one of those factors," he added.

Five catches for 75 yards and a touchdown — Jefferson's 50-yard strike — is the duo's paltriest production in a game this season. It's the fewest grabs they've combined for in a Vikings loss across 23 games together. How? Let's take a look at some of those factors.

Jefferson & Thielen in 2021
at CIN: 14 catches, 163 yards, 2 TDs
at AZ: 12 catches, 104 yards, 2 TDs
vs. SEA: 15 catches, 168 yards, 2 TDs
vs. CLE: 9 catches, 130 yards, TD
vs. DET: 9 catches, 164 yards
at CAR: 19 catches, 206 yards, TD
vs. DAL: 8 catches, 99 yards, TD
at BAL: 5 catches, 75 yards TD

1. The offense's final play in overtime — capping a fourth three-and-out of the afternoon — was the big shot everyone was looking for. But this one, like many before them for coordinator Klint Kubiak, was undercut by poor anticipation.

The Ravens defense seemed to have a read on the Vikings offense, run or pass, especially during their three overtime plays. On first down, Kubiak called a deep shot that was swallowed by off coverage and led to a Cousins checkdown. On second down, a Cook handoff ran into a Ravens wall. On third down, another shot play.

It's a seven-man protection for the Vikings against a seven-man Ravens blitz. Jefferson (#18) and Thielen (#19) have long-developing routes, running about 15 yards downfield before crossing each other. Protection is paramount.

While the Vikings have enough blockers, they miss Ravens safety Chuck Clark (#36), who arrives late in the play clock to the line of scrimmage. With five seconds left when Chuck gets to the line, center Mason Cole — starting for Garrett Bradbury — and Cousins don't adjust the protection, leaving Cousins to throw "hot," or under the duress of an unblocked rusher, in a play design that doesn't have a quick outlet.

Cousins could've adjusted the play or protection call, according to Zimmer, but the clock would've made that difficult. They had one timeout left, but Cousins has previously said coaches primarily call them.

"He has some options there," Zimmer said. "The protection was the other way on that one, and they had a free runner coming off the weak side. Could we have been in a better place? Sure, that's part of it. But that series was disappointing to me because I thought we had a chance to get some momentum."

2. The interior offensive line remains an issue, and right guard Oli Udoh had a rough game against the Ravens. Another key situation came just before halftime, when safety Camryn Bynum intercepted Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in Baltimore territory. The Vikings could've jumped out to a 21-3 lead if they'd finished this drive and used the remaining clock.

Below should be a play-action out to Thielen (#19) on second and long. But two blocks get blown up front when Udoh (#74) is worked backward by Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (#92), who causes a domino effect.

Udoh is benched backward into fullback C.J. Ham (#30), who is blocking across the flow of the play to carry out the fake of a split zone run. Ham is supposed to block the backside defensive end, in this case Calais Campbell. But Madubuike and Campbell burst through the line, disrupting Cousins' follow through and the inaccurate pass to Thielen.

On the next play — third-and-11 — Cousins missed an open Jefferson on a similar out route, and the Vikings settled for a field goal. Inaccuracy with and without pressure.

3. From the beginning of the game, Cousins was taking the checkdown before pressure could get to him. He wasn't sacked all game. The Vikings lead the NFL with just 10 sacks allowed, but that risk avoidance is coming at the cost of downfield plays. The quarterback has been too conservative, not just the play calling.

On the first pass, Cousins checked down to tight end Luke Stocker for five yards while Jefferson was finding an opening between the linebacker and safety levels. On the second pass, Cousins threw an angle route immediately to running back Alexander Mattison, who was quickly tackled by two Ravens for a gain of three yards.

Even when Cousins had rare space to operate on a play-action bootleg, he checked it down to tight end Tyler Conklin (#83) while seemingly missing Thielen. Below, the Vikings use a tight end bunch formation with two backside blockers — Conklin and Stocker — while Chris Herndon (#89) releases downfield.

Thielen (#19) runs a crosser for a high/low concept with Conklin off this bootleg; Cousins takes the low option, throwing to Conklin, despite nobody being around him. There's no reason he couldn't have looked around, bought time and found something better. Thielen looked plenty open from the TV copy.

4. Three plays later, the connection remained off between Cousins and Thielen during a scramble drill. It's a short third down. Thielen (#19) and receiver K.J. Osborn (#17) run a levels concept with two in-breaking routes at different depths. Jefferson (#18) releases outside before cutting in on a slant.

Cousins appears to target Jefferson, but Conklin (#83) is driven backward in protection and into the quarterback. Cousins tucks the ball and runs to his right, where Thielen sees and improvises.

When Thielen sees Cousins flee, he points downfield to indicate he's going to go deep. Cousins throws like he's expecting that, but Thielen cuts off his route and goes back to the sideline. A miscommunication and incompletion on third down.

"It's something that gets talked about not very often," Thielen said. "But you try to get on the same page of, 'OK, this is what I'm going to do if we do scramble,' and it happens like that. It's not like you have time to go back there and think about it, so he made the decision to throw it deep, and I came back, and we didn't complete that play."