As the clock ran down, Warren Sapp grabbed a black NFC Central champion's hat, put it on and ran to the small cluster of Tampa Bay fans at Soldier Field.

As the fans cheered, Sapp clapped his hands and pounded his chest while his teammates exchanged hugs and high-fives behind him.

After a long, often ugly, drought between division titles, this was one celebration the Buccaneers and their fans were going to savor.

"We've got two old banners and we've got a new one we'll be putting up soon for the fans of Tampa Bay," said Sapp, the Buccaneers' emotional leader. "We've come a long way, no doubt about it. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Mike Alstott rushed for a touchdown, Jacquez Green caught 10 passes for 113 yards and Tampa Bay's defense abused Chicago quarterback Cade McNown as the Buccaneers beat the Bears, 20-6, today to win their first NFC Central title since 1981.

Tampa Bay, in the postseason for only the fifth time, earned a first-round bye with the victory. It's also the first time the Buccaneers finished with 11 victories.

"It's a great feeling. This is everything we've been wanting to do," said Alstott, who grew up in nearby Joliet, Ill. "To do it the way we did, starting 3-4 and ending up 7-1, it's kind of sweet."