Vikings, 49ers vying for three consecutive victories

The Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers both go for a third win in a row when they meet Sunday afternoon in Santa Clara, Calif.

Minnesota (5-5) is coming off back-to-back victories against the Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers to climb back to .500 and strengthen its hopes for reaching the postseason. The Vikings have scored 30-plus points twice in the last three weeks and five times this season.

As he looks for continued success, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has a simple message for his team and in particular his starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins.

Stay aggressive.

“I want (Cousins) to keep doing it like he’s doing it,” Zimmer said. “He can’t second-guess himself. If he throws an interception, that’s life. But you keep going for the jugular. It’s going to open up a lot of other areas in the running game. It’s going to open up other players.”

Cousins has fared well with a gung-ho approach this season. He has a 106.3 passer rating while amassing 2,775 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Justin Jefferson has emerged as a superstar wideout and Cousins’ top target. Jefferson has 63 catches for 944 yards and six touchdowns, and with 56 receiving yards Sunday he could surpass 1,000 yards for the second season in a row since the Vikings drafted him out of LSU.

It adds up to a tough challenge for San Francisco (5-5), but the 49ers have proved in recent weeks that they can quiet an opposing offense. The 49ers also are coming off back-to-back wins after a 31-10 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 and a 30-10 beatdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.

After starting the season 2-4, the 49ers have reeled off three wins in their past four games.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said all aspects of his team have found a rhythm.

“I just think we’ve all gotten a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Shanahan said. “It’s not much of a new way that we’ve been going about it. I think we’ve just been doing it at a consistent, higher level. …

“Whether it’s been the run or pass game, (we find a way). And I think at the same time, our defense has been stopping guys at a higher level. I also think we’ve gotten turnovers on special teams and defense. … When you do all that stuff, you do get a lot more plays, a lot more drives, and that helps everybody.”

Wideouts Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk have helped fuel the 49ers’ success on offense. Samuel leads the team with 55 catches for 994 yards — only six yards from his first 1,000-yard campaign – and five touchdowns, and Aiyuk has 29 catches for 341 yards and three scores.

Jimmy Garoppolo has relied on quick, accurate passes to establish a 100.0 passer rating on the season for the 49ers. He has thrown for 2,112 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.

This will be the teams’ first meeting since Sept. 9, 2018, when the Vikings won 24-16.

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