Brian Ashton accepts England's RBS 6 Nations title hopes will go on the line at Stade de France Saturday night.
Having lost at home to Wales, then struggled past Italy in Rome, England cannot afford another defeat as they target a first Six Nations crown since 2003.
With Scotland away and Ireland at home completing their Six Nations schedule next month, nothing less than three successive wins are required.
Even that will not be enough should unbeaten Wales add Italy, Ireland and France to their list of conquests - but England know they must give themselves a fighting chance.
Although Saturday’s encounter is not a knockout game to compare with the World Cup semi-final victory over France last October, England will be left floundering on the canvas if they lose.
Head coach Ashton said: “We’ve never used the word knockout in a Six Nations tournament, but the players are not daft.
“They will be aware that if they want to win the Six Nations tournament what they have got to do, which is not lose another game.
“We’ve talked about focusing on the next game and making sure we get our performances right - and so far, you could argue we’ve only done that for 50% of each game.
“We’ve got to be much better than that on Saturday night if we want to come away with the right result.
“The players are well aware of the importance of this game.”
Ashton has identified the fixture’s importance in the long as well as short term.
“It is not because it is England versus France, not because it is the third game of the Six Nations, but because we really need to see signs now for 80 minutes that the team is starting to move in a different direction,” he said.
“They are certainly in the mood to put that into operation.
“If we get in front, we have got to be more ruthless in terms of just applying ourselves to the detail of how we want to play the game.
“The first-half performances (against Wales and Italy) have been okay. I have been disappointed in the second-half performances, obviously.
“The captain (Phil Vickery) made a statement yesterday that the players have got to take ownership and responsibility on the field.
“On the management team, we are not abdicating any of that whatsoever - but it is fantastic to hear the captain stand up in public and say that.”
England at least look this time to have avoided the injury scourge that has previously blighted their Six Nations campaign.
They lost four players - Mike Tindall, Lewis Moody, David Strettle and Tom Rees - to injuries during the 26-19 Wales defeat, then props Andrew Sheridan (heel) and Phil Vickery (stomach bug) were sidelined for the match in Rome.
But Ashton is set to field the team he announced earlier this week, after arriving in Paris Thursday.