For nearly two years, Seahawks cornerback Ugo Amadi has had to stew over one of the lowest points of his rookie campaign—and career—with no chance to run it back. Now, he'll finally get an opportunity to do so.
This Sunday, the Seahawks will kick off the second half of their season with a trip to Green Bay—the site of their last pre-pandemic game, in which they fell 28-23 to the Packers in the divisional round of the 2019 playoffs. That night, Amadi saw the field on just 11 of Seattle's defensive snaps, though one of them came on arguably the biggest play of the game.
After falling down 21-3 at halftime, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks stormed their way back to pull the game within five points. They possessed the ball with a chance to take the lead late, but with under three minutes left in regulation, Wilson was sacked to put Seattle in a 4th and 11 situation from its own 36-yard line. In a move that has since long been criticized, head coach Pete Carroll opted to trust his defense to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense and sent out his punting unit.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Packers running back Aaron Jones ran the ball for two yards and the Seahawks called their first timeout. Then, they benefitted from an incomplete pass by Rodgers, setting up a 3rd and 8 from Green Bay's 22-yard line. It was an obvious passing situation for Rodgers and company, and an incompletion would have put Seattle's offense in prime position with two timeouts and the two-minute warning remaining.
However, as soon as the Packers got lined up, Rodgers knew exactly where he was going with the football. The veteran identified a clear mismatch in the slot, where the 6-foot-1, All-Pro talent of Davante Adams stood opposite of the 5-foot-9 rookie Amadi in man coverage.
It's hard to fault Amadi for the result that followed. Even the league's best corners, who are better physically suited to go one-on-one with Adams, have struggled to contain the four-time Pro Bowl selection.
“I was thrown in the fire, and it was tough,” Amadi told former NBC Sports Northwest reporter Joe Fann in a July 2020 interview. “I knew who I was going against. ... That’s something that I can’t forget."
Using his excellent footwork at the snap, Adams easily beat Amadi to the outside. Safety Lano Hill came late over the top, leaving Amadi in no man's land as he trailed behind the streaking Adams, who hauled in a dime from Rodgers for a 32-yard gain to move the chains.
The game didn't necessarily end at that specific moment, but the conversion certainly took the wind out of Seattle's sails. Green Bay ate up Seattle's second timeout and the two-minute warning with a pair of runs by Jones, which only netted a single yard. But coming out of the break, Rodgers was able to find former Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham over the middle for just enough yardage to seal a trip to the NFC championship game.
Amadi spent the subsequent offseason feeling partly at fault for his team's elimination. All summer long, he repeatedly watched his play against Adams, which served as his core source of motivation heading into his second year.
As Marquise Blair went down with a season-ending ACL injury early on in 2020, Amadi took over as Seattle's primary nickel corner. In that time, he allowed 45 completions on 60 targets for 426 yards, no touchdowns and an opponent passer rating of 94.2. As a result, his efforts earned him a solid 70.6 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus.
Fast forward a year later to present day and Amadi finds himself in an eerily similar position. Through the first seven games of the 2021 campaign, he and Blair split snaps at the nickel corner spot based on matchups. But in a Week 7 loss to the Saints, Blair once again suffered a season-ending knee injury, thrusting Amadi into the full-time role.
This year, Amadi has statistically regressed. He has allowed 26 completions on 32 targets for 206 yards, one touchdown and an opponent passer rating of 103.9. Of course, this could be a product of the defense's struggles overall and the inconsistency of his playing time in the first half of the season.
Whatever the case may be, Amadi will have an opportunity to poetically turn things around this weekend. Stepping on the grass of Lambeau Field for the second time in his career, he'll aim to exorcise the demons that have haunted him since that brisk January night and help his team get a much-needed victory to stay afloat in the NFC wild-card race.
However, ideally, he won't get many—if any—opportunities to rematch Adams. Instead, his main goal will likely be focused on suffocating Rodgers' security blanket, Randall Cobb, in the slot. Cobb has caught 20 of 28 targets for 244 yards and four touchdowns in his return to Green Bay, and should be an even bigger point of emphasis for Rodgers with tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) out for the year.
There's also the small possibility that Rodgers doesn't play in this one after testing positive for COVID-19 last week. As an unvaccinated player, the defending league MVP has to wait a minimum of 10 days—and produce two negative tests—before he's allowed to rejoin the team. Those 10 days won't be up until this Saturday, meaning the Seahawks, at the very least, will see a version of Rodgers that hasn't practiced in nearly two full weeks and is coming off a serious illness.
“Well, it is an interesting situation," Carroll described of Rodgers' status. "They have to see how they come out this week too and we’ll see what happens. We’re going to prepare like we’re going to see their best guys. That’s the way we’ll go, and expect that we’ll see Aaron [Rodgers] back out there. If that’s not the case, we’ll have seen the game of [Jordan] Love. We’ll know more about what we need to do there. We’ve got to prepare for the best guys. The way it looks, protocols and format and all that, he should be back out there.”
Whether it's Love or Rodgers under center, Amadi and the Seahawks understand what's at stake here. Even posed against a 7-2 Packers team, dropping this game and falling to 3-6 on the year is simply not an option. While a loss wouldn't necessarily kill their postseason aspirations in a very weak NFC wild-card picture, winning this game would give their odds—and their overall morale—a significant boost. Plus, Amadi isn't the only one looking for redemption in Green Bay.
The Seahawks haven't won a game at Lambeau Field in 22 years. Amidst this ongoing drought, they've suffered a trio of heartbreaking playoff losses and a few brutal regular season affairs. Many Seahawks have their own story of failure to tell when it comes to Green Bay. But at a potential turning point in an otherwise disastrous season, they have the chance to change the narrative and put an overdue end to their green and yellow nightmare.