Jack Ross admits his side played into Coventry City's hands after coming out the losing side of a nine-goal thriller at the Stadium of Light.
Ross had set his side up in an expansive manner, sticking with the 4-4-2 shape that they have used in recent weeks.
They always looked a threat in attack but the away side caused havoc on the counter, spurning a number of good openings to increase their lead even further in the first half.
Forward Luke Thomas and Bright Enobakhare in particular were a constant thorn in the home side.
Ross was left particularly frustrated by the fact that three of Coventry's goal came from moves that start with Sunderland gifting the ball away.
"You can't use it [expansive style] as an excuse because in your preparation you then have to have a balance about how the opposition can hurt you," Ross said.
"The truth is, I think Coventry are a good team and what they have in forward areas is good, I thought they were clinical with their finishing.
"But we played our own part in creating the opportunities by the decision making because when you play in a certain way, you have to make the right decisions with the ball in particular.
"Defending is just about as much when you have the ball and then when you go 3-1 down it's difficult to then make the game tighter. You've got to take the chance. The problem was today we were continually chasing the game."
Ross stuck with his shape for the second half, throwing on Aiden McGeady and Kazaiah Sterling after Jordan Shipley had made it 4-3 shortly after the interval.
The Black Cats boss admitted that McGeady, who has missed the last two games three games through injury, was 'miles off being fit'.
"The first double substitution, Aiden is miles off being fit," Ross said.
"He hasn't trained at all, we probably gambled with more time on the pitch than we should have done but he wanted to give it a go. So him and Kaz coming on was to chase the game, Benji coming on is obviously the last role of the dice given that he's an 18-year-old who hasn't played a lot."
Ross said he would use the short break before the visit of Doncaster Rovers next week to assess who is best equipped for a crucial weekend.
"Having this longest gap we've had for a while allows me to reflect on and assess the ones that are best equipped with what mentally lies ahead," Ross said.
"It's another good team we face on Friday and there'll be the pressure again."