Villa looked out of sorts during the opening 45 minutes and needed a fortuitous goal from Ashley Young to cancel out Steven Fletcher's opener.
It kept Villa on course for a Champions League spot via a top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League as they put their recent goalscoring problems - just three in the previous seven league games - behind them.
Downing said: "The manager wasn't very happy at half-time. It took a gee-up from him and a few other players to get us going because it wasn't acceptable really.
"It worked wonders because in the second half we looked a different team and played some great football. The manager is a great man motivator and half-time was the perfect example with a kick up the backside."