Arizona Game Winning Shovel Pass & Various Shovel Option Concepts

Arizona finished off their 26-20 overtime victory against Green Bay on a shovel pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald. Shovel pass is a common play used around the goal line in the NFL. Let’s analyze how Bruce Arians designed a shovel concept with no option element or QB run threat, along with other variations of the Shovel Option Concept.

Shovel option is a combination of Power blocking along with option principles. In traditional shovel option, and as seen here, the backside Guard pulls through the hole up to the second level, while the Center and playside Guard down block. The playside Tackle leaves #96 Outside Linebacker Mike Neal and also goes up to the second level. Mike Neal is the “read” man. If Neal widens with QB Carson Palmer’s half roll, Palmer will flip the shovel pass underneath to a scraping Larry Fitzgerald.



The underneath shovel pass concept has multiple variations. In a 2-man shovel option, the shovel man and QB (as a runner) are threats:


Credit: From James Light Football’s Boston College Shovel Option Series at

Next, shovel can be a triple option with the underneath shovel man, the QB, and a running back or receiver as an outside pitch option reading two defenders.


Finally, shovel triple option can be run with a flat route as a shovel triple option with a pass element, or quadruple option:

Quadruple Option

Credit: from Smartfootball’s Shovel Option with a sprintout at

Here, Bruce Arians combines elements of these versions to create a well designed and somewhat unique shovel pass. Note, there is no speed option element to this play, and it is not triple option. Running back David Johnson (#31) never looks for the ball or gets into pitch phase; however, he is used well as a decoy. His flow outside moves the defense slightly to the outside, particularly #47 Linebacker Jake Ryan. QB Carson Palmer is not a run threat in this scheme.

Wideout John Brown (#12) also goes in motion and then runs a flat route. This accomplishes two things: first, it helps diagnose the coverage. More importantly, it brings his original man-to-man defender across the formation and out of position to tackle the underneath shovel. Brown could also potentially be a pass option in the flat if he is not properly accounted for by the Defense.


Fitzgerald’s pre-snap alignment along with the blocking scheme makes it impossible for his man-to-man defender (#37 Sam Shields) to make a play on him. If Mike Neal squeezed inside to the shovel pass, it’s possible Palmer could have looked for Nelson, or just thrown it at Fitzgerald’s feet. Overall, it’s a great example of Bruce Arians adapting a scheme to fit personnel.

To learn more about the triple option shovel pass, below is an instructional video:

Along with compilations of Urban Meyer’s shovel triple option both at Utah and Florida:


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