Brian Sipe set a club career record by throwing four touchdown passes today, then had to survive a nearly disastrous safety before the Cleveland Browns could wrap up a 31-26 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Tackle Doug English brought down Sipe in the end zone with 4:44 left to make it 28-26 and give Detroit a chance to win on a field goal after receiving Cleveland's free kick. But a holding penalty pushed the Lions back to their own 37, then free safety Mike Whitwell intercepted backup quarterback Gary Danielson's third-down pass and returned it 28 yards to the Detroit 27.

With 1:57 to go, Matt Bahr made a 25-yard field goal for the margin that ensured the Lions couldn't win with a three-pointer. An incompletion at the Cleveland 38 ended their last drive.

The four scoring passes by Sipe, a 10-year veteran from San Diego State, raised his total to 135, surpassing the 134 thrown by Frank Ryan in a Browns uniform, 1962-68.

The Browns overcame 16 penalties for 140 yards as Sipe completed touchdown passes to Ricky Feacher, Mike Pruitt, Ozzie Newsome and Dave Logan and Pruitt rushed for 137 yards, 108 in the second half.

Detroit's Eric Hipple completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Thompson just 70 seconds into the game and hit Ulysses Norris with a five-yard scoring toss 14 seconds from halftime. But, with Cleveland up, 28-17, Hipple was relieved by Danielson two plays from the start of the fourth quarter.

"I guess that just means I've been in Cleveland a long time," Sipe said of his record. "Frankly, I would have been confused if I hadn't broken the record considering the number of snaps I have taken in Cleveland."

"He's playing like he did a couple of years ago," said Cleveland Coach Sam Rutigliano. "He's been sharp all year--he's our engineer in control."

Sipe lost his job to left-hander Paul McDonald late last year but regained it in training camp.

"Last year is water under the bridge," Sipe said. "I'm going to show a little bit more emotion this year . . . have some fun instead of playing like I'm so cool all the time."