The England international helped his new side to a 2-0 win at Goodison Park after the home side were reduced to 10 men.
Referee Martin Atkinson's decision to dismiss Rodwell drew widespread condemnation, with many unsure the firm tackle was even worthy of a foul.
Red or dead: Everton's Jack Rodwell was sent off for a challenge few believed was even a foul
Downing admits he wasn't close to the incident on the halfway line but did feel Atkinson had been harsh.
'We played some good stuff at times but the sending-off killed them a bit and made it very hard for them,' the ?20million man said. 'I wasn't near it at the time. It happened that quick I didn't have a greatview of it but at the time I thought it would be a yellow card.
'It's easy for me to say that but it wasa tough decision for the referee. But we kept pressing and it paid off in the end. Credit to the lads because we managed to exploit it in the end.'
The controversial win followed on from three points at home to Wolves last week and erased the memories of reverses at Stoke and, in particular, Tottenham.
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Beating Wolves was significant in light of the fixtures to follow as, having now made the short trip to Goodison Park, Liverpool host Manchester United after the international break.
They can at least go into that game with renewed confidence after seeing off their determined nearest-neighbours.
Downing added: 'The two victories we've had back to back after the defeats has shown the character of the team and depth of the squad we've got here. We all want to do well and getting wins like this helps.
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'It was a great game to be involved in. It was a great atmosphere and both sets of fans got right behind their teams. It was quite feisty for half an hour, the tackles were flying in but that's part of the game.'
Everton manager David Moyes was adamant Atkinson got it badly wrong with a decision which had a detrimental effect on the game.
'When it was 11 v 11 I didn't think it was a bad game,' said the Scot. 'We had our fair share but the game nearly stopped at that moment (of the sending-off). It was in the players' minds.'
Moyes attached absolutely no blame to 20-year-old Rodwell, who was distraught at the decision and left the field with some words of consolation from Reds midfielder Charlie Adam.
'Jack is a young boy making his way in the game so what footballer wouldn't have been disappointed.it was a big day for him,' he added. 'He had a terrific tackle on Kuyt on the touchline just before that and we were in there competing with Liverpool, which is what we always try to do.'
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