Michael O'Neill's side arrived in Azerbaijan hoping to show that last month's loss to Luxembourg was a blip but slumped to another depressing result with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Group F's bottom side.
The result makes a fourth-placed finish unlikely and means an even tougher draw for Euro 2016 qualifying could await.
"There are positives to take, as mad as that sounds," Paterson, who hit the goalframe two minutes from time, said.
"I don't think we're miles away but it's a fine line. We had four or five good
chances, they got one break and scored: that's international football.
"But we are still a young group. We've got to learn quickly and turn results
around. If we do we have a chance of really pushing in the next campaign, but we have to work harder as a unit."
A Jonny Evans red card compounded Northern Ireland's woe and O'Neill faces the unenviable challenge of lifting a depleted squad for Tuesday's final match in Israel.
O'Neill, who has Oliver Norwood and Gareth McAuley suspended, said: "We have three players out but we also have men to come in - particularly the likes of Sammy Clingan and Chris Baird.
"We'll have to look at the centre-back situation because of the players we've lost to suspension and that is self inflicted.
"But I thought the referee was not strong enough. I'm disappointed with him,
he should have been stronger on the night."