Jim Mallinder has refused to write off Saints' chances of claiming a play-off place in the Aviva Premiership.
But the director of rugby admits finishing in the top six is now a more realistic target.
Saints were beaten 36-31 by Leicester Tigers at Franklin's Gardens at the weekend.
It was a huge blow for Mallinder's men, who are now six points behind fourth-placed Tigers in the league table.
Saints dropped a place to seventh thanks to Harlequins' huge win against Newcastle Falcons.
And Mallinder said: “I think realistically now the attention is on a top six finish.
"I mean we’ll never say never until it’s not possible any more but I think top six is what we’re going to be aiming for.
“It’s going to be competitive and incredibly tough, we’re playing three of the top four (Saints face Wasps, Saracens and Exeter Chiefs in their next three games), but that’s the Premiership as it is and we won’t give up.
“We’ve got a few days off now which we’ll use well and come back fighting for the rest of the season.
“I think we said earlier on in the season that we were defending well but struggling to attack and score tries and we’ve definitely seen an improvement over the last few months in that.
“We need to keep working on that and tighten up our defence because we conceded too many points on Saturday whether that was because of our discipline or through the scoring tries. That’s definitely an area that we need to improve on.”