SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Kyle Shanahan’s scouting report on the Minnesota Vikings came with an expected compliment for his one-time prodigy, Kirk Cousins.
“I know how good of a quarterback Kirk always is,” Shanahan said.
Whatever shortcomings Cousins has shown in his 56-56-2 career as a NFL starter, he’s covering them up better than ever and flourishing for a Vikings team that visits the 49ers on Sunday.
It’s a matchup of 5-5, NFC contenders — and of the NFL’s two most efficient quarterbacks over the past month.
The 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo boasts a 100-plus passer rating over each of the past four games to help spur a turnaround. He’s peppering the ball over the middle, doing so quickly, on target and in the clutch on third and fourth downs.
An obvious connection between the quarterbacks is their link to Shanahan, who was Washington’s offensive coordinator when Cousins broke into the NFL and won him over from 2012-13.
But both quarterbacks have their teams back into NFC playoff contention because of another similarity: they’re safeguarding the football.
“You understand when you hold the football, you hold much of the organization in your hands, so you want to take that seriously,” Cousins told Minnesota-area reporters Wednesday.
Cousins leads all NFL quarterbacks with a 21-to-2, touchdown-to-interception mark. He hasn’t had a pass intercepted in his past five games and 195 overall attempts. He’s winging it around the yard and he’s also nailing his intermediate targets.