SANTA CLARA — Linebacker Aldon Smith loves playing in prime time. It takes him back to how he spent so many Friday nights in high school under the lights.
San Francisco teammates Anthony Dixon, Joe Staley and others become similarly nostalgic when they take the field these days with the football spotlight on them.
"Under the lights, you knew it was showtime," Smith said. "It's just that feeling you get again from being under that spotlight."
Aside from the good vibes and youthful memories, the 49ers (10-3-1) sure seem to thrive on the NFL's big stage. They are 5-0 this season in prime time, with another Sunday night game coming up at Seattle and a chance to clinch a second consecutive NFC West crown.
"Those Friday night lights, when I'm feeling like that, I feel like the other team is in trouble," Dixon said Tuesday. "Back in those high school days, most of us, we were unstoppable. I love that feeling. I do get that feeling sometimes when I go back out there and it's one of those games. You try to get that feeling, those Friday night days you were (dominating). You were at the top of your game. It feels good to feel like that."
San Francisco wants to keep its own good feeling going right into January.
For running back Frank Gore, Sunday night's 41-34 victory at New England was a big step toward what he hopes is another special postseason run — with one more game, that is: the Super Bowl. San Francisco lost in overtime of last January's NFC title game to the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
"We know that we had to get a win going against a great team in New England," Gore said. "We let everybody know what type of team we are. We came out, we started out fast as a team and got the big win.
"We've got a good team. We practice hard and we work hard every day. And we want it."
The Niners snapped New England's 20-game home winning streak in the month of December. They slowed down Tom Brady and his high-powered offense after coming to Foxborough, Mass., as an underdog.