Howe admitted his team had been “rocking” after Rovers had netted three times in the space of 11 first-half minutes through Jordan Rhodes, Grant Hanley and Rudy Gestede.
But his disappointment had been tempered by an improved second-half showing with Brett Pitman’s penalty and a Steve Cook header giving the scoreline some respectability.
“I was hugely disappointed at half-time,” said Howe. “I thought we started really well and looked in total control and dominated the ball for the first 10 minutes. We conceded the first goal and, uncharacteristically for us, we didn’t respond well.
“The second and third goals were from set-pieces and we found ourselves 3-0 down and rocking. It took us until half-time to regroup.
“We came out and gave a really good performance in the second half but it was another game when we were kicking ourselves because we didn’t get anything from it. We showed that when we get it going, we are a match for anybody but you can’t give good teams a 3-0 start.”
Hull City transfer target Rhodes gave Rovers the lead when he shrugged off the attentions of defender Steve Cook and fired the ball past Lee Camp.
Skipper Hanley outjumped Cook to head home a second before Gestede flicked a Craig Conway shot past Camp to make it 3-0.
Howe added: “For the first goal, we were in control of a situation and it wasn’t good from our perspective. The second one was a free header from a set-piece, which I still thought we should have done better with even from that point.
“The disappointing thing was the reaction. We lost our way and we were lucky they didn’t score more in that period of time.
“I think it was a reminder for our players that we have to be at our best at all times and, even when you get setbacks, conceding a goal is not the worst thing in the world as long as it doesn’t become two.
“I think we have to learn from Nottingham Forest. They conceded a goal against us but stayed in the game and got their rewards later. I think there is still a bit for us to go and it is a good learning tool for us.
“I thought Ryan Fraser came on and was near enough unplayable for 20 to 25 minutes. He really did have a positive impact so I was delighted with him. He gave us some energy and pace and put them on the back foot, not just him but the whole team. We had a right go in the second half and were unfortunate not to get a point in the end.
“We had it last season where we were beaten five and six and were given tough lessons at this level.
The pleasing thing was the players responded, showed character and showed a lot of quality with our play because we did it playing football and gave our fans some reward for their hard work in terms of travelling.
“It was very important we came back and showed some pride because, since I have come back to the club, one thing the players have done it given me everything in every game. I could never be critical of their work ethic. For a period of time today, I was critical of that and that hurts.”