CHICAGO, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Face it. Most Chicago football fans are late getting on the Bears championship bandwagon.
The Bears won the National Football Conference Central Division title Sunday coasting to a 33-13 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars to win their first championship since George H.W. Bush, the president's father, was in the White House in 1990.
And they did it in the manner ex-head coach Mike Ditka would approve of, with opportunistic defense, solid special teams and a little bit of offense. The Bears finished the regular season 13-3, their best record since Dikta left town, earning a bye in next week's wildcard round of the NFL playoffs.
They will host either the Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers or Green Bay Packers in a night game Jan. 19 or 20, depending on who wins next weekend.
TV stations Monday touted "Bears Fever" in full epidemic with $50 playoff tickets being scalped for hundreds.
Keith Traylor, a 300-something pound defensive lineman who rumbled 67-yards after a one-hand pass interception to set up a touchdown that put the Bears ahead 20-0 in the third quarter, was proclaimed the town's biggest hero since William "Refrigerator" Perry.
Stations unearthed tape of the "Super Bowl Shuffle" by the 1985-86 Bears. Cornerback R.W. McQuarters said he plans to go into a studio this week to record a rap ditty.
Public opinion was mixed on an updated "Shuffle." The original was recorded weeks before Super Bowl XX, where the Bears dominated the New England Patriots, 46-10.
Ditka reportedly was all for the bravado, but mild-mannered coach Dick Jauron may nix a repeat musical performance by this team.
If ever a team ever needed to maintain focus, it is these "Good News Bears."
The overachievers had records of 7-9, 4-12, 4-12, 6-10 and 5-11 over the last five seasons before unexpectedly clicking during what should have been a rebuilding year.
"We just got tired of losing," said offensive lineman James "Big Cat" Williams earlier this year. The 6-foot-5, 339-pounder was named to the Pro Bowl this season for the first time in his 11-year career.
Journeymen quarterbacks Jim Miller and Shane Matthews clearly are enjoying the attention.
Starter Miller and backup Matthews, who was cut and re-signed after being injured early in the season, coached 11 contestants at the ESPN Zone/JVC Quarterback Challenge football passing competition Monday night. Last year, neither would have been invited as contestants let alone as celebrities.
Defensive end Bryan Robinson signed autographs and took pictures with fans at a divisional championship party at the Excalibur Night Club Sunday night but kept his feet anchored to the ground.
The defense had four sacks and three interceptions against Jacksonville and defense will take the team as far as it goes.
"We've been criticized all season... hopefully we'll get even stronger. We're not done yet," he said. "I bet they'll all will be on our bandwagon next year. So it's cool, nobody picked us all year but we believe in each other."
That kind of chip-on-the-shoulder attitude could get the Bears to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. But then what?
Nobody remembers the losing team in the Super Bowl; just ask the New York Giants or Tennessee Titans.
Without that "us against them" moxie that brought this team together, they lose. It would have been a wild and improbable ride -- but no ring, no cigar.
After Traylor puffed his way off the field following his momentum changing interception he was hugged by Bears great Richard Dent, one of more than 35 all-time Bears players attending the last game at Soldier Field before it is remodeled into a $670 million skybox-rich super stadium.
The Bears will play their home games at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana next season.
Before the season, oddsmakers would given the Sept. 11 attacks better odds of happening than the Bears winning the Super Bowl. But look at what league parity has wrought -- the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens needed a win against Minnesota Monday night to make the playoffs.
You can't worry about who you play. It's how you play," said running back James Allen, who rushed for 1,000 years last season and spent much of this year on the bench.
Allen, who played behind Anthony "A Train" Thomas and his 1,183 rookie yards this season, knows it's all about opportunity. "Every time I get my chance to make a play I make it."
Robinson hopes there will be no letdown.
"This team wants to win," he said. "This team got to the point where they were sick of losing."