Bristol director of rugby Andy Robinson felt their second-half fight-back in a 19-14 loss at Newcastle Falcons showed they can compete in the Premiership.
Robinson's side trailed 19-0 at half-time on Saturday but scored 14 points without reply after the break.
It was not enough to avoid a sixth loss from six games since returning to the top flight, but gave Robinson hope.
"In that second half, you saw us really get into the fight. We attacked really well," he told BBC Radio Bristol.
"What it highlights is that we do have the ability to compete.
"We need to really get in the fight straight away in games, and then stay in the fight.
"It looks like we're sitting back first, waiting to see what the opposition are going to do, and then it's too late."
Bristol - who won promotion back to the Premiership last season - are the only side still yet to win this term, but have played four of the teams currently in the top six.
Their losing bonus point at Falcons took their tally for the season up to two points but they remain bottom of the table.
"That is quite pleasing, that we got something out of it," former England and Scotland coach Robinson added. "This tournament is about points accumulation."