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Golden Nuggets: Who’s been your unsung hero of 2023 (so far)?

Your daily San Francisco 49ers news for Saturday, December 16th, 2023

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Four unsung heroes that have helped the 49ers thrive

“After essentially redshirting as a rookie, Banks was a reliable starter in 2022. This year, he has continued to assert himself as one of the team’s most dependable linemen.

While Williams leads the way, Banks has played a part in helping the Niners become dominant in running to the left. San Francisco leads the NFL in rushing yards (925) and rushing touchdowns (13) and is third in yards per carry (6.0) when rushing left.

Banks says his only individual goal this season was to continue to build on the foundation he built last year. His understanding of the scheme and what is required of him — the detail that goes into a Niners’ running play is much more than one might think — has only grown.

Banks’ focus is on finishing this season strong, even if it doesn’t come with a lot of accolades.”

Brock Purdy’s NFL-leading accuracy on deep passes a 49ers key vs. Cardinals (paywall)

“Purdy’s command of the nuances that go into playing the QB position is perhaps the primary ingredient of his success. The 49ers don’t throw deep at a particularly heavy volume — Purdy’s 41 attempts of 20-plus yards rank No. 19 — but Shanahan is sure to bake in calculated downfield opportunities that are instrumental in maximizing the offense’s efficiency. Seizing those chances is reliant on Purdy’s recognition of them — as was the case when he caught Adams flat-footed and pivoted his attention to Samuel.

“I think that’s stuff that he does very naturally,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “I think that’s the talent in Brock that you can’t always judge. … It’s a big deal how your eyes see things. I think Brock recognizes stuff and the speed of things and levels and he knows the hole and the defenders and what they should defend.”

Inside 49ers’ unshakeable winning culture: ‘Things are different here’ (paywall)

“The 49ers play with a ceaseless attention to detail, a relentless quest for excellence and a legitimate team-first approach. Selfless pursuits like blocking on the backside, creating space via precise route-running and sealing the edge are celebrated; anything to the contrary is self-policed.

“A lot of teams have got the same sayings and strive for the same standard,” said cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who signed with the 49ers last spring after five seasons with the Falcons. “Here, I would just say it’s so much more player-driven. I’ve never really had a coach tell me I’m not playing up to a certain standard, because Fred (Warner) or Dre (Greenlaw) or four other players will do it first.”

In that sense, Shanahan and general manager John Lynch deserve ample credit for identifying, acquiring and cultivating leaders who help set the 49ers’ standard. Beginning in 2017, when the coach and GM took over a flailing franchise, they’ve brought in exacting grinders who put football first and also perform at exceptionally high levels.

All-Pro linebacker Warner, a 2018 third-round draft pick, is the perfect embodiment of that description. In his words, “We take practices, the meeting rooms and the games really seriously, and we rely on our preparation.” More recent acquisitions either already possess that mindset — McCaffrey being Exhibit A — or conform to it quickly if they hope to stick around.”

Five 49ers to watch in Sunday’s NFC West matchup vs. Cardinals

“Kinlaw has remained healthy this season, which has enabled him to practice and improve his game behind the scenes. In games, he has done a much better job of playing lower and creating leverage to defend against running plays.

The Cardinals figure to test Kinlaw early in Sunday’s game, with Conner running the ball on early downs between the tackles.”

Armstead, Hargrave out for 49ers-Cards; Greenlaw, Ward questionable

“Burks is expected to miss multiple games due to knee tendinitis. Burks starts in the 49ers’ base package and is one of the core special-teams players. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles is likely to play in place of Burks.”

49ers’ Brock Purdy returning to Arizona with everything going to script (paywall)

His long-ball success isn’t because of a magically bionic arm. Rather, it’s a reflection of his increased understanding and comfort in the 49ers’ offense in his second season.

“I feel like I’ve always been efficient with the quick game and intermediate game,” Purdy said. “But when it comes to pushing the ball down the field, it’s sort of just understanding what we’re trying to do as an offense when we get those kinds of opportunities. Being aggressive and letting it rip. In all my years playing football, this is probably the best in terms of pushing the ball downfield and being efficient in that area. Not just throwing it up in hopes that someone will grab it.”