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Allen Park โ€” Besides the victory, about all quarterback Matthew Stafford got out of the game Sunday in Soldier Field was a bunch aches and bruises.

The official NFL statistics show he was sacked four times and hit seven times. But he was hurried and harassed far more than that. Which is why, despite throwing two interceptions and posting a pedestrian quarterback rating of 53.7 in the game, coach Jim Caldwell praised him on Monday.

"I think there is a lack of appreciation for him around here at times," Caldwell said. "Let me just tell you something โ€” he's a man's man, he's a tough guy. He gets hit out there every single ball game and he hangs in there."

Caldwell said of the two interceptions, one was on Stafford (a bad decision to throw into coverage in the end zone) and the other was on Golden Tate (who seemed to break off his route).

"There may be one he'd like to have back, but then there's a couple others that were probably not all his fault," Caldwell said. "I think when you look at the numbers and all that kind of stuff, we make assessments based on that, and that's it.

"He also did a lot of great things for us. I'll tell you what, he's progressing. I'm proud of the way that guy is playing, and I think also you're going to see him get better and better."

Stafford's 243 yards passing put him over 4,000 (4,040) for the fourth straight season. Only Peyton Manning (five times) and Dan Marino (four) have thrown for 4,000 or more yards in four of their first six years in the league.

It was also the fifth time this season and 17th in his career that he's engineered a fourth-quarter comeback win.

Still, on the whole, Caldwell isn't quite sure what to make of his offense. After scoring 34 points in consecutive weeks, it has sputtered the last two at Minnesota (16 points) and Sunday at Chicago (20 points).

"A couple of weeks ago I would've felt we were moving in the right direction," he said. "Our offense was clicking, our defense has been playing well all year long. But we were clicking offensively and everything was kind of in place for about two games there.

"This is just a little bit of a drop. But we still found a way to win. I think we're close, but we'll have to see."

Decision on Fairley?

Caldwell insists there is no deadline for defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who has been trying to return from a knee injury, but time is clearly running out.

"I keep saying it, but he is getting better," Caldwell said. "He's coming along, off the crutches, in the strength training on that particular injury and he's making good progress."

Caldwell would not say whether Fairley could return to practice this week. He was vague when asked what would make him consider putting Fairley on season-ending IR.

"Everything kind of changes, depending upon your circumstances with your roster and what it looks like," he said. "If there's a need, then you have to kind of weigh it out โ€” what's the possibility of his return and so on. That's always constantly being weighed."

He was coy when asked if putting Fairley on IR was an immediate possibility.

"Not at this precise moment that I'm standing before you," he said.

About Ebron

Tight end Eric Ebron, the team's No. 1 pick, has caught 23 balls for 210 yards all season.

Caldwell was asked if he was disappointed in Ebron's production.

"No, did you watch him block this weekend?" Caldwell said. "Did you take a look at the film? He was effective, tough, hard-nosed. He did a lot of good things."

Blocking was not supposed to be Ebron's forte. He was the 10th overall pick because of his ability to stretch the field and make big plays.

"He might not have caught passes and ran down the field, but no, I'm not disappointed," Caldwell said. "He's progressing. He's getting better and oftentimes, we can see it and I think you'll be able to see it as well."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky

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