Perrish Cox made a triumphant return to Denver by making a key second-quarter interception to help the San Francisco 49ers defeat the Broncos 29-24 in preseason action on Sunday.
With the Broncos backed up inside their own 20-yard-line on a second-and-13, Cox stepped in front of Eric Decker to pick off Caleb Hanie's first pass of the second quarter. The 49ers cornerback brought the pass back 21 yards to the Broncos' 19-yard line.
"I was just reading a three-step to five-step drop," Cox said of his interception. "I think Decker ran a skinny post, and we were in cover-three coverage. I was reading the whole triangle from the receiver to the quarterback. He threw it and Decker wasn't looking for the ball so I broke on it perfectly. It flew right into my hands."
Cox looked comfortable all day in the mile high air having spent his rookie campaign with the Broncos in 2010 before sitting out last season.
"It was one of the greatest feelings to have," said Cox about his performance. "It was great playing against the guys you used to practice against every day. It felt kind of awkward at first talking to everybody pregame. Being able to get a pick against them, it's a great feeling."
Cox's interception helped continue the team's comeback from a 17-0 first-quarter deficit.
The turnover came three plays after Alex Smith connected with Vernon Davis for a 44-yard touchdown to get the 49ers on the board.
"It was the perfect time to get a turnover because they had the momentum going in and they were moving the ball a lot," Cox said.
With great field position coming off Cox's pick, David Akers kicked a 33-yard field goal to bring the 49ers within seven points of Denver's lead.
The 49ers cornerback's standout afternoon was just another step in what has been an impressive offseason after sitting out 2011. The speedster's interception against the Broncos gave him a team-leading second interception of the preseason, which also ties him for second-most in the NFL through three exhibition games.
His ability to make interceptions has resembled the trademark of a former teammate from Denver, Champ Bailey, whom Cox considers a mentor.
The interception was not the only turnover in the game that Cox caused. He also combined with rookie safety Trenton Robinson to bring down Broncos running back Jeremiah Johnson three yards behind the line of scrimmage on a fourth-and-one late in the fourth quarter.
That turnover gave the 49ers offense good field position once again, setting up a 44-yard Akers field goal, which helped solidify the final result and extended San Francisco's lead to 29-24.
Cox finished the day with three tackles, tied for the fourth-most among 49ers, as he saw the majority of his action alongside the second defense.
He has spent time at both nickel and traditional corner throughout training camp, with both preseason interceptions having occurred while Cox lined up on the outside. Cox's versatility has impressed Jim Harbaugh, as the 49ers coach said his cornerback's performance against the Broncos made a good statement following the game.
Cox's penchant for forcing turnovers, coupled with his ability to lineup all over the field, has caught the eye of all his coaches.
Vic Fangio has called the nickel position in his defense a mix between linebacker and defensive back. Cox's ability to make picks in addition to stopping running backs in the backfield has seemed to fit his defensive coordinator's description of the position.
Fangio will also echo his cornerback's desire to continue improving.
"Tackling is the most important thing to work on coming out of this," Cox said. "I think I had two-or-three missed tackles. I have to go in and work on a lot of stuff myself. As a team and as a whole defense we need to work on tackling and getting off the field on third downs."
Going forward, coaches and 49ers Faithful alike will look for Cox to improve, but to also keep up the game-changing play he has displayed through three exhibition games.