The Buffalo Bills have a Fearsome Foursome going for them the second half of this season.
Unlike the original Fearsome Foursome -- the defensive line of the Los Angles Rams from the 1960s -- the Bills' quartet does not wreak havoc with its size and strength.
The Bills' Fearsome Foursome is all about speed and quickness.
The Bills have been making good use of their four-receiver formation the past five weeks, and it is causing defenses problems.
Buffalo has scored five touchdowns the past five games from the four-wideout set, and quarterback J.P. Losman is completing 80 percent of his passes over that span out of the formation.
"It's probably my favorite set to be in," Losman said. "I'm able to spread things out and see it."
Josh Reed's human bowling-ball, catch-and-run touchdown against Miami last week was a perfect example of the usefulness of the alignment.
The Bills were in a third-and-14 situation, but Miami cornerback Will Allen could not stay with Reed, who ran a crossing route from the slot-receiver spot on the right side of the formation. Reed caught a Losman pass in perfect stride and ran 27 yards for a touchdown.
Lots of teams have effective slot receivers. Not too many teams have two slot receivers with the quickness and separation ability of Reed and Roscoe Parrish.
"You get some real good matchups," said Bills offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild. "In the league you don't see a ton of it. People tend to use the three-receiver, one-tight end thing. So it's a little different for defenses. It's hard to get the fourth receiver. We're fortunate to have that here, so it's certainly something we use."
The Bills got away from the four-receiver set after the Detroit loss the sixth game of the season. They gave up two sacks and had an interception from the four-wide spread formation in that game. They barely used it in midseason games against New England, Green Bay and Indianapolis.
But as they have shored up their pass-protection issues, they have gotten back to it.
Losman was 9 of 11 from four-wides against Houston. The Bills ran it all seven plays of the last-minute, game-winning drive that ended with the 15-yard TD strike to Peerless Price. The Bills used it eight plays against Jacksonville, 27 against San Diego, two against the Jets and six against Miami.
"I feel with our receivers it's going to be very, very tough for them to find four guys to sit there and press and match with our four receivers," Losman said. "So they're going to have to bring pressure, which I can see pretty well, and I can get it out into those guys' hands ASAP, and they can make someone miss. Or if they just want to play Cover Two, I think it's also good. It opens up lanes for the quarterback to run, and I think it leaves some things open. We have smart guys who can find those holes in the Cover 2 sets and Cover 4 sets."
"It's a nice little system for him [Losman] that he's comfortable with because he was in the shotgun in college," Fairchild said. "He's done a nice job with that two-minute offense."
Obviously, with four receivers in the pass pattern, there are fewer men in to block and the defense is more tempted to blitz.
A few plays before the Reed touchdown, the Bills converted a third-and-4 situation against a Dolphins blitz. The offensive line picked it up, Losman threw quickly to Reed, and he broke a tackle for a 9-yard gain.
"Being in the slot makes it a whole lot easier because you usually have the starting corners on your No. 1 and 2 receivers," Reed said. "And in the slot you've got the third and fourth corner or sometimes a safety, with the middle of the field to look with."
Staying in a good down and distance is a key to success in any formation. In a second-and-long or third-and-long situation, it's easier for the defense to blitz and force a quick dump-off throw underneath.
If it's second-and-5 or third-and-5, that's when the defense has a tougher time, because a quick throw can yield a first down.
"The only thing people can do to stop it is if they want to play press [with the cornerback close to the line] and they disrupt the receiver faster than I can get the ball out," Losman said. "That's the way -- if everything is even -- to stop it."
If the Bills' offense gets more experienced and more efficient next year, the four-receiver set should be a dangerous weapon.