Big cheering section for Mayo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Fourth-year Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo grew up in Hampton, Virginia, which means Sunday's road game against the Redskins is a chance to play in front of many family and friends who often don't have the chance to watch him live.

"I have quite a few people out there, but it's a business trip and I'm all about winning this football game," Mayo told reporters Friday. "But it will be good to get back home."

More importantly, Mayo is back to playing at a Pro Bowl level in recent weeks after recovering from an MCL sprain Oct. 2 against the Raiders.

The Patriots' leading tackler is coming off a strong performance against the Colts that included his first interception of the season (a beautiful diving play). He touched on some of the challenges facing the Patriots' defense against the Redskins, starting with quarterback Rex Grossman's mobility and rookie running back Roy Helu's production as both a rusher and pass-catcher.

Whenever a defense faces a Mike Shanahan-coached club, the running game is always a challenge, even in a year the Redskins rank 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (87.5 avg.).

"If you back years when Mike Shanahan was at Denver and they had [different running backs] coming in. Same scheme. You go to the Houston Texans [under former Shanahan assistant Gary Kubiak], it's the same scheme," Mayo said. "It's a great scheme and its fit for running backs. Those guys really do an excellent job reading their blocks and being disciplined."

As for Mayo's semi-homecoming, the last time the Patriots played a regular season game in Washington was 2003. Mayo was a senior at Kecoughtan High that year.

The Patriots did play a 2009 preseason game at Washington.