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10 memorable Dallas Cowboys games with John Madden in the booth

Legendary Hall of Famer John Madden was the voice of many of the greatest moments in the history of the Dallas Cowboys.
Credit: AP
FILE - Former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden gestures toward a bust of himself during his enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 5, 2006. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

DALLAS — The football world lost a galactic legend in John Madden, who passed away at the age of 85 on Dec. 28, 2021.

The former Oakland Raiders Super Bowl-winning coach was the A-team commentator for CBS, FOX, ABC, and NBC's broadcast teams at various points during his career as the preeminent NFL color analyst from 1979-2008. Madden spent the first 23 seasons of his career working NFC games, which gave him plenty of opportunities to call Dallas Cowboys games.

"This is a loss that is as big as the legacy that John Madden created," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. "A legacy of love. Love for family, for football and for life. I am not aware of anyone who has made a more meaningful impact on the National Football League than John Madden, and I know of no one who loved the game more."

Here are 10 great Cowboys games that Madden called:

1. Nov. 24, 1991 at Washington — The Cowboys needed a win to snap their two-game losing streak and get out of the 6-5 funk. They were facing a big gorilla in the 13-0 Washington squad, but as coach Jimmy Johnson said, when punching a big gorilla, you give it everything you got.

Troy Aikman threw a 34-yard Hail Mary to receiver Alvin Harper just before halftime, and the Cowboys' quarterback was later knocked out of the game. Backup Steve Beuerlein finished the game and led Dallas to a 24-21 win at RFK Stadium.

2. Jan. 17, 1993 at San Francisco 49ers (NFC Championship Game) — Dallas won one game in 1989 and were now one game away from the Super Bowl, and they were going to play at Candlestick Park against the 49ers, who wrested control of the NFC in the '81 NFC title game played at that very venue.

As Pat Summerall and Madden called the action for CBS Radio 11 years prior, they were eyewitnesses to history. Now, they would watch the team of the '90s turn the page on the team of the '80s as the Cowboys defeated San Francisco 30-20 to reach Super Bowl XXVII.

3. Jan. 2, 1994 at New York Giants — Running back Emmitt Smith dislocated his shoulder early in the NFC East title game that would also determine the No. 1 seed in the conference. Home-field advantage was on the line, and Smith shouldered the Cowboys to a 16-13 overtime win with a stat line of 32 carries for 168 yards and a touchdown while catching 10 passes for 61 and another score.

Madden came down from the broadcast booth after the game to congratulate Smith on his stupendous display of heart and determination.

4. Jan. 23, 1994 vs. San Francisco 49ers (NFC Championship Game) — Of course the '92 NFC title game was a huge stepping stone for the franchise, but this playoff rematch had more emotion. Johnson called into Dallas sports radio during the week and guaranteed Dallas would win the ballgame and to "put it in a three-inch headline."

The Cowboys backed it up with a 38-21 beatdown of the Niners. The last image of the NFC package on CBS, with Summerall and Madden calling the action, is a shot of Texas Stadium (please link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RM0DNA0n0) from the blimp. It was like Adam and Eve leaving Eden because football on television has never been as glorious as it was then.

5. Jan. 14, 1996 vs. Green Bay Packers (NFC Championship Game) — The Packers and Brett Favre put up a fight as they led 27-24 early in the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys weren't going to let Green Bay get in their way.

Dallas prevailed 38-27 with the Cowboys getting a shot to win three Super Bowls in a four-season span. Smith was spectacular as he carried 35 times for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

6. Nov. 26, 1998 vs. Minnesota Vikings — The Cowboys were starting to become the foils for other teams by the late '90s, but rookie receiver Randy Moss torched the Cowboys secondary with three catches for 163 yards and three touchdowns.

Aikman had an outstanding game just trying to keep up with Minnesota's offense as he completed 34-of-57 for 455 yards and a touchdown in the 46-36 loss on Thanksgiving.

7. Oct. 10, 1999 at Philadelphia Eagles — If there were an unofficial end to the Triplets era, it would be this game as Michael Irvin sustained his career-ending injury with 5:16 to go in the first quarter.

During the 12-minute stoppage of play to tend to the injured Irvin, Madden shared that in the first meeting the production team ever had with Smith in 1990, Irvin was there with him. "He didn't come in by himself. He came in with Irvin." Summerall commented that Irvin "did all the talking." Dallas would lose 13-10 in a game that was also Andy Reid's first career win as coach.

8. Sept. 15, 2003 at New York Giants — In Madden's first Cowboys game on ABC Monday Night Football, quarterback Quincy Carter led an improbable comeback to get Dallas' first win under new coach Bill Parcells.

With 11 seconds on the Cowboys' 40-yard line, Carter completed a 26-yard pass to receiver Antonio Bryant to set up Billy Cundiff's 52-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Cundiff hit a 25-yard field goal with 6:03 in overtime. The win would spark a five-game winning streak and Dallas would finish 10-6 with a wild-card qualification.

9. Nov. 14, 2005 at Philadelphia Eagles — Donovan McNabb was about to do it again: beat the Cowboys in prime time. Philadelphia led 20-14 with 2:53 to go, and needed just a couple of first downs to run out the clock.

McNabb couldn't read the Cover 3 and floated a pass to the right for receiver Reggie Brown. Safety Roy Williams picked off McNabb and returned the takeaway for a 46-yard touchdown. The Cowboys would hold on 21-20 as David Akers' 60-yard field goal try fell short in the end zone.

10. Oct. 29, 2006 at Carolina Panthers — The Cowboys were moving on from Drew Bledsoe and went with Tony Romo, a 2003 undrafted free agent from Eastern Illinois who hadn't thrown a real pass for Dallas until garbage time in a win over the Houston Texans in Week 6. However, Bledsoe was his immobile, indecisive self the week before in a 36-22 loss to the Giants that compelled Parcells to make the switch.

Romo was 24-of-36 for 270 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The Cowboys set a then-record for the most points scored in a fourth quarter in team history with 25. Dallas won 35-10.

"Maybe he wanted to be Brett Favre, and he watched Brett Favre and all of that, but he really — and I hate to say Joe Montana — but the way that ball comes out of there and his accuracy and velocity, he reminds me a lot of Joe Montana," Madden said during the broadcast.

What are your favorite John Madden memories? Share them with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.

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