Two of quarterback Brian Sipe’s best traits -- spreading the ball around and throwing touchdown passes -- were on display in the second game of his final season with the Browns.
He threw for four scores -- each one to a different receiver -- to lead the team to a 31-26 victory over the host Detroit Lions on Sept. 11, 1983 before 60,095 at the Silverdome.
It’s still tied for the second-most TD passes in a game in club history. Sipe also shares the team record of five scoring passes with four other players -- Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen, Kelly Holcomb and Derek Anderson.
The five-point win, following a six-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the opener the week before at Cleveland, evened their record at 1-1 and showed that the Kardiac Kids still liked to make their games go right down to the wire -- win or lose. It is still the only time the Browns have defeated the Lions at Detroit.
The Lions, who would finish 9-7 and capture the NFC Central title, fell to 1-1.
For the second straight game, the Browns fell behind quickly. Detroit scored on the third play from scrimmage when Eric Hipple threw an 80-yard TD pass to wide receiver Leonard Thompson.
But by the second quarter, the Browns were ahead 14-7 after Sipe threw scoring passes of 42 yards to wide receiver Ricky “Hollywood Dude” Feacher and six yards to running back Mike Pruitt.
The Lions tied it 14-14 with just 14 seconds left before halftime on another Hipple scoring pass, this one to tight end Ulysses Norris covering five yards.
Detroit also got the first points of the second half on Eddie Murray’s 43-yard field goal, but Sipe’s 15-yard TD pass to Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome gave the lead back to Cleveland, 21-17, after three quarters.
Sipe’s 22-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Dave Logan opened the fourth quarter and stretched the lead to 28-17 with 10 minutes left. It also enabled Sipe to pass Ryan and become the Browns’ career leader in TD passes with 135. He ended his career with 154, still a team record.
But in typical Kardiac Kids fashion, the Browns allowed the game to become a nail-biter.
Norris caught another TD pass, this one for 15 yards from Gary Danielson, who would become a key member of the Browns two years later.
Then defensive tackle Doug English tackled Sipe in the end zone for a safety, and all of a sudden, the Browns’ 11-point lead had been cut to just two, 28-26.
It was time for the Browns to stand up defensively, and they did. After giving the ball back to the Lions with the free kick, free safety Mike Whitwell intercepted a Danielson pass and returned it 28 yards to the Detroit 27. It was one of three interceptions on the day for the Browns and five turnovers overall forced by the defense.
That set up Matt Bahr to kick a 25-yarder field goal with 1:54 left, allowing the Browns to hold on for the win.
Hipple and Danielson combined to throw for 359 yards, but the Cleveland defense more than made up for that by holding Billy Sims, one of the top backs in the game, to just 54 yards rushing.
Sipe completed 18-of-29 passes overall for 234 yards and the four scores with no interceptions.
Four Browns caught three or more passes. Running back Dwight Walker led the way with five receptions for 35 yards, while Feacher had three for 66 yards, tight end Harry Holt three for 59 and Newsome three for 33.
Logan caught two passes for 35 yards.
Pruitt, on the way to the last of his four 1,000-yard rushing seasons with the Browns (he ended with 1,184), rambled for 137 yards in 24 carries.
But it was Sipe who was the key for the Browns during that era, not just offensively but overall. He threw for 28 TDs in 1983 as the Browns finished 9-7 and just missed qualifying for the AFC playoffs, then signed a lucrative contract with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals in the offseason.