They have lost six of their last seven league matches since beating bitter local rivals Newcastle United at the start of February, and their next three games are against top-four chasing Everton and title candidates Manchester City and Chelsea.
“I am realistic,” the Uruguayan, who replaced Paolo Di Canio in October with the side having taken one point from their first seven matches, told reporters following the White Hart Lane defeat.
“When you look at the table and you look at the games that we have left and how many we need to win – I think we need a miracle, something unique, a shock.
“And if not, I cannot see it happening.”
Sunderland had a glimmer of hope in north London when Lee Cattermole put the visitors a goal up after 17 minutes, capitalising on an error by Spurs defender Vlad Chiriches.
However, two goals to Emmanuel Adebayor and further efforts to Harry Kane, Gylfi Sigurdsson and the impressive Christian Eriksen ensured Sunderland returned home empty handed.
While the players gave no indication of having given up on their task, the feel-good factor created by the team’s run to the Capital One (League) Cup final, where they lost to Manchester City, and strong performances in the FA Cup had dissipated.
Poyet said they would already have been relegated if not for the cup form.
“As soon as we lost that run the team went backwards – dramatically,” he said.
“I think the desire is there but we are missing a few things that are very important in football, the quality in certain moments be it scoring a goal or defending. We haven’t taken risks.
“There are plenty of things we could improve. Sometimes the table doesn’t lie. I am realistic if we did not win a game in the last seven and now we need to win four from seven.
“I know where I am. If you look at the table and the games we have got left to win. I cannot see it coming.”
(Reporting by Josh Reich; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)