Up next: First look at Tampa Bay

Worst to first is a way of life for the Bucs and Jon Gruden. For the second time in three seasons, Tampa Bay made a complete turnaround to win the NFC title.

The Buccaneers did it by hammering the Atlanta Falcons 37-3 to improve to 5-0 in the division after going winless a year ago. If the playoffs started today, the Bucs would own the fourth seed in the NFC.

"To win a division title is hard to do and we had a lot of guys step up throughout this year to help us do that," Gruden said.

The latest example is Micheal Spurlock, who returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown against the Falcons, the first in the franchise's 32-year history.

Spurlock, who has had two stints on the practice squad, is the latest unheralded player to make a big impact for the Bucs this season. The Bucs will try to use the next two games -- at San Francisco and home against Carolina -- to build some momentum for the playoffs and rest some injured players. The Bucs also would like to become more efficient on offense.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who returned to the lineup for the first time since missing two games with a lower back contusion, was a little rusty in his first game back against the Falcons.

"It's just a great feeling to know all the work you put forth in the off-season, all the guys you've brought in, the new guys to help the team have done their job," receiver Michael Clayton said. "We can all sit in the locker room with a chemistry feeling like a family and go on the field and dominate the game. To have that in professional ball says a lot about the character of this team. We definitely can respect each other for that and go on and be a better team.

"Even at the lowest of lows, I think the chemistry we've built, we're able to weather whatever we've gone through this year. I think that's a big part, being able to bounce back, whatever happens. Guys stepping up. Definitely going into the playoffs, it's exciting."

Brooks, who watched the club struggle to a 4-12 season a year ago, once doubted whether the turnaround would occur this quickly.

"We thank God -- for the second time in my career -- we went from worst to first. To clinch the division and be in the playoffs with two weeks to go says a lot about this football team and we've still got a couple goals out there in terms of how we can use these next two games to get our playoff mentality going," Brooks said.

"I'm glad we clinched as early as we did so we can start moving into a post-season mentality. It's the first step. Getting in the tournament, that's one of our goals; get us in the Super Bowl tournament whether by winning the division or qualifying for a wild card. We've accomplished that goal, now it's really trying to win 11 games."

--- WR Micheal Spurlock returned a kickoff 90 yards in the first quarter Sunday, the first in the 32-year history of the franchise.
--- QB Jeff Garcia returned to the lineup Sunday after missing two games with a lower back contusion. He went 15-of-25 passing for 109 yards, one touchdown, one interception.
--- RB Earnest Graham scored a touchdown in his sixth straight game, a club record. Graham has 10 touchdowns, the third-most in team history.
--- RB Michael Bennett's 28-yard fourth quarter run was his longest of the season.
--- FB B.J. Askew was inactive Sunday because of an ankle sprain.
--- FB Byron Storer started at fullback for the Bucs, his first NFL start.
--- CB Ronde Barber returned an interception for a touchdown, the 12th of his career.

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