Saracens took the points with a 15-14 win in the clash of the league’s top two at Welford Road to seal a home-and-away double over the defending champions.
The result ended a run of nine successive league victories for Tigers, including three during the Six Nations programme, and now there are two blank weekends leading up to the Round 18 trip to Bath on March 26.
“It hurts to lose at home in any game but you can’t always have everything your own way and we're still in there fighting,” said director of rugby Cockerill.
“Saracens are a good side, they’re hard to play against and they make you work really hard. Across the board we need to do better.
“When things don’t go your way you have to deal with it and bounce back, and I’m sure we will do that.
“We didn’t perform as well as we can, but we were still in a position where we could have won it right at the death.”
After 17 rounds, Tigers have 57 points, two ahead of second-placed Saracens, while third-placed Gloucester (49) and fourth-placed Bath (40) have played just 15 games. Just four points separate Bath from ninth-placed Exeter Chiefs and an intriguing run-in is in prospect.
“We deserve to be top of the table because we have been winning consistently,” said Cockerill. “But there is still a lot to play for.
“We have come through this Six Nations period pretty well. We’ve won three from four and, if we’d been a little bit more accurate in certain areas against Saracens perhaps we could have been four from four. Then we’d be having a different conversation and we’d be happy with the win. We have to deal with the defeat and move on.
“Now we’ve got a little bit of time off and then build up to the Bath game. We’ll be hoping that by then we have the Test guys back with us and injury-free, and most of the injured guys will also be back playing.”